Friday, January 30, 2009

Israel in the dock?

The Spanish Supreme Court is to probe Israeli officials for "crimes against humanity".

Quelle surprise
. The usually anglo-centric British press is totally glossing over what looks like a whatershed in the history of international justice.

The Spanish Supreme Court, Audiencia Nacional, began an official inquiry into seven former and current Israeli officials alleged to have committed war crimes after a 2002 attack in the Gaza Strip that killed 14 people including a senior Hamas member. The judge described the attack as "clearly disproportionate" in his ruling.

According to the Israeli paper Haaretz, "National Infrastructure Minister and former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and former IAF and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz may face criminal charges in Spain for killing Palestinian civilians seven years ago". Israel dropped a one-ton bomb into a Gaza City neighbourhood housing Hamas leader Salah Shehade on July 22, 2002.

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak lashed out at the Spanish decision: "Those who call the killing of terrorists 'a crime against humanity' are living in an upside-down world," he said, calling the Spanish announcement "delusional".

Adn Kronos News agency explained that it's not the first time Spain make reference to a doctrine that allows prosecution in Madrid "of such an offence or crimes like terrorism or genocide even if they were allegedly committed in another country" (a similar precedent involved former Chilean dictator Pinochet).

The latest decision inquiry by the Audiencia National, however, is of greater resonance, coming in the wake of the huge controversy surrounding the recent killing of over 1,300 people in Gaza which saw the Israeli government at the centre of allegations of crimes against humanity. A European country officially pressing charges against Israel will be something to watch closely.

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