On Monday 26 September 2011, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights opened a training course on “International Humanitarian Law [IHL], Litigation, and Prosecuting War Crimes,” held at the Orient House hotel in Gaza city.
Shirin Ash-Shobaki, coordinator of the Training and Mass Communication Unit at Al Mezan, opened the course by welcoming the 23 practicing and training participating lawyers.
Ash-Shobaki discussed the importance of understanding the various aspects of IHL in the context of armed conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and especially with regard to the situation faced by the Gaza Strip since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Strip in September 2005.
In September 2007 Israel declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and imposed a siege on it.
Israel has always refused to accept the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949in the oPt, claiming that the oPt’s legal status is disputed.
Also important in the context of the Gaza Strip is Operation Cast Lead, with its grave violations of IHL, crimes committed against civilians, and destruction of civilian properties.
The Israeli army continues to launch attacks on Gaza that violate the basic principles of IHL.
It is therefore important to confront the current situation by ensuring the rule of law internationally, and by building the capacity of lawyers, who can play a vital role in progress towards this end.
Ash-Shobaki thanked the participants for their attendance and commitment to the course.
She emphasized the importance of making good use of their newly acquired knowledge in a way that will serve the cause of Palestinians human rights and dignity.
During the course Mrs.
Ash-Shobaki discussed the importance of understanding the relationship between human rights and IHL, with the object of protecting civilians in the occupied territories and knowing the obligations imposed on Israel as a party to the major human rights conventions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
These obligations were affirmed in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the illegal separation wall in the West Bank.
The course aims to develop the skills and knowledge of lawyers and other legal professionals in international humanitarian law and litigation procedures for the prosecution of war criminals and other perpetrators of international crimes.
It consists of 24 training hours to be delivered over four days.
Participants will be introduced to: the historical and legal framework of IHL and international human rights law (IHRL); the content of IHL and IHRL; protected groups under international law; the application of international law; enforcement mechanisms; the responsibility of an occupying power towards the population of an occupied territory; and the legal status of the oPt.
The course will also introduce the participants to international criminal law and mechanisms for prosecuting war crimes, in addition to monitoring and documentation mechanisms—an area of increasing importance to legal and human rights professionals in the context of the crimes being perpetrated in the oPt.
This course constitutes one component of the “Promotion of IHL and ESCR [economic, social and cultural rights] by Education” project, implemented by Al Mezan in a cooperative framework with Diakonia.
This project aims to raise awareness of IHL among the Palestinian community in Gaza in general, and to enable lawyers in particular to make use of IHL in their legal and judicial work.