On Thursday 8 October 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights held a meeting entitled “Justice Delayed…Justice Denied” for a group of the families of the victims and survivors of Israeli aggression against Gaza Strip 'Operation Cast Lead'.
Al Mezan, Al Haq, and Adalah have been working on 25 cases in which there is evidence that the Israeli army committed acts amounting to war crimes during this offensive.
Shirin Al-Shobaki, Training and Mass Communication Unit Coordinator at Al Mezan, opened the meeting by welcoming the attendees.
She said the meeting aimed to inform the families about the progress of their cases in terms of documentation and legal intervention.
There has been much coverage by the media recently about the developments of the UN Fact Finding Mission (the Goldstone) report and other interventions.
Al Mezan aimed to communicate important facts about these developments to the victims through their lawyers directly, Al-Shobaki said.
Samir Zaqout, the Field Work Unit Coordinator at Al Mezan, presented an overview about “Operation Cast Lead”, which was commenced on 27 December 2008 and lasted for 23 days.
He emphasized that, according to the documentation of Al Mezan and Al Haq, Israel committed wide scale war crimes against Palestinian civilians; including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
He also talked about Al Mezan’s documentation activities, which helped in providing well-documented information to UN Fact Finding Mission (Goldstone Mission).
Zaqout also talked Al Mezan and Al Haq's legal assistance to the victims; which has included filing a case with courts in the United Kingdom against Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
While the court accepted the evidence as to the alleged war crimes to which Barak was part, it refrained from issuing a warrant to arrest him on the ground that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
Zaqout said it was important to pursue such cases as one of the options to seek justice through a legal process.
He also talked about the deferral of endorsing the draft resolution at the Human Rights Council of the Goldstone Report, stressing that Al Mezan and human rights organizations will continue to exert pressure to seek effective judicial remedy for the victims.
He considered the deferral is a serious impediment before the efforts to ensure respect for human rights and making justice.
He said that Palestinians are called to restore their unity and act together to bring to an end the Israeli occupation, punish war crimes against them, and strive for their legitimate rights.
Lawyer Fatma Al-Sharif said that Al Mezan and Al-Haq have jointly been working to prepare war crimes files for nine months now.
The two organizations seek to file cases before national jurisdictions, like that against Ehud Barak in the UK, and international courts.
They work closely with Adalah to file complaints and cases with Israeli courts.
Justice must be made, no matter where, and if Israel lives up to its international responsibility and punish its citizens who committed criminal acts, there will not be a need for prosecution internationally, she said.
However, given the present and history of Israel's investigations of criminal conducts of its forces, there is too little trust that there will be investigations and prosecutions that live up to the internationally standards, she added.
She also mentioned that the Israeli authorities have opened investigations into two cases following complaints by the three organizations; including cases of Israeli troops' use of civilians as human shields, wide-scale demolition of civilian property and willful killings.
Al Mezan made a presentation of Operation Cast Lead pictures; a reminder that horrors were committed and justice must not be delayed.
At the end of the meeting, representatives of the families of the victims spoke about their suffering, having to live with traumas and grave losses.
Fayez Salha asked Al Mezan and all human rights organizations to continue their work to seek their rights and to bring criminals to justice.
Relatives of the victims also called for a strike before UNRWA and ICRC to exert more pressure to ensure successful reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Majed Abu Nasser, one of the victims, talked about his injury and called upon help to have cornea transplantation.
The victims were extremely critical of the role of the Palestinian Authority in the deference of the vote on the Goldstone report at the Human Rights Council and called for reviving it, as they see a window of hope for justice but also protection of civilians in Gaza from possible crimes in the future.