By Stephen Lendman
Launched in March 2009, "The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) seeks to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the (way to settle) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Its mandate focuses on "the enunciation of law by authoritative bodies," including International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings and dozens of UN resolutions on Palestine with regard to binding international law.
RTP follows in the tradition of the BRussell Tribunal, named after noted philosopher, mathematician, and anti-war/anti-imperialism activist Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970). Established in 1967 to investigate Vietnam war crimes, RTP’s mandate is similar, its Tribunals collecting and presenting indictable evidence against Israel, complicit states, and corporate war profiteers.
RTP’s November 20-21 London Session
Before convening, RTP listed issues to be addressed, including:
(1) Corporate involvement in Occupied Palestine, including illegal settlement activities;
(2) Foreign banks and other financial institutions illegally financing and profiting from occupation and settlement activities;
(3) Foreign and Israeli companies supplying products and services in Occupied Palestine; in addition, Israeli ones exporting agricultural produce and other products from settlements and West Bank industrial zones; and
(4) Foreign corporations selling arms and "the infrastructure of war, occupation, colonisation, and repression" in Occupied Palestine; in addition, Israeli companies that export arms, munitions, repressive hardware or knowledge globally.
As in Barcelona, distinguished jurors were assembled, their names and credentials listed below. In addition, expert witnesses were invited to give testimony.
A public statement followed its conclusion, RTP noting (in advance) the failure thus far to act on the Goldstone Report, adding that "a people’s tribunal held in the full glare of publicity will serve to fill an apparent void in the international legal system." Perhaps also galvanize future action.
Proceeding like a court case, RTP "heard compelling evidence of corporate complicity in Israeli violations of international law, relating to:"
(1) Supplying arms for illegal conflicts;
(2) Building and maintaining Israel’s Separation Wall, in violation of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) 2004 ruling, calling it illegal, ordering completed sections dismantled, and "all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto" repealed or rendered "ineffective forthwith;"
The ICJ also mandated reparations for the "requisition and destruction of homes, businesses, and agricultural holdings (and) to return the land, orchards, olive groves, and other immovable property seized," obligating member states to reject the illegal construction and demand Israel comply with international law.
Israel spurned the ruling, the way it treats all international law, operating roguishly out-of-control, just like its Washington paymaster partner.
(3) "Establishing, maintaining and providing services, especially financial (ones) to illegal settlements, all of which have occurred in the context of an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory."
RTP said witnesses provided clear evidence of corporate culpability, exposing them "to legal liability for very serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."
RTP’s March Barcelona Session also found EU member states complicit in Israeli lawlessness, including the illegal occupation, settlements, Separation Wall, Gaza siege, and repeated acts of aggression against Palestinian civilians and non-military targets, Cast Lead the clearest example.
RTP jurors were unequivocal saying "the international community is clearly in agreement that Israel is in flagrant disregard of its international obligations," adding that letting it continue is unacceptable. Israel’s impunity, however, "set(s) it apart from the rest of the international community." Complicit corporations are just as culpable.
The London Session considered the following questions:
(1) What laws have corporations violated?
(2) What legal consequences do they face?
(3) What remedies are available, and what obligations do member states have to enforce them?
In early December, RTP’s full London findings will be presented, its interim statement noting "the failure of states" to comply with their international law obligations. As a result, civil society acts instead, seeking vitally needed change. The growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement stands out for its importance, applying economic, political and cultural pressure on Israel to comply, or face painful consequences.
Corporations are also criminally involved. They can, and have been "the subject of citizen’s movements that the RTP received evidence about, including:"
— shareholders holding them accountable;
— divestments by pension funds; and
— various actions highlighting their complicity.
Civil society is doing plenty. It’s time for states to do their part.
RTP invited 12 corporations and EU nations to London. All declined. Two additional sessions will keep highlighting their lawlessness. RTP’s conclusions show at least some are criminally liable, including the following:
(1) G4S, a British/Danish corporation supplying West Bank checkpoints with scanning equipment and full body scanners;
(2) Elbit Systems, an Israeli company producing weapons technology, engines, and drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAVs) for the IDF and global militaries;
(3) Caterpillar, producing modified military D9 bulldozers, used to demolish homes and villages, build the Separation Wall, and aid in urban warfare; in all cases, property is illegally destroyed and civilian deaths and injuries result;
(4) Cement Roadstone Holdings, an Irish corporation owning 25% of Mashav Initiative and Development Ltd, an Israeli company owner of Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises Ltd; it supplies 75 – 90% of all cement Israel uses in Occupied Palestine, including for settlement construction and the Separation Wall;
(5) Dexia, a Franco/Belgian company financing West Bank settlements through its Dexia Israel Public Finance Ltd;
(6) Veolia Transport, a French corporation involved in building East Jerusalem’s light railway and operating bus services to Israeli settlements; and
(7) Carmel Agrexco, an Israeli company exporting oranges, olives, avocados, and other West Bank settlement produce.
G4S, Elbit Systems and Caterpillar actually promote their equipment usage during Cast Lead, contributing to massive destruction, loss of life, and serious injuries.
The evidence heard may be used in civil damage suits. It also shows complicity in crimes of war and against humanity, as well as pillaging natural resources. The Tribunal’s full conclusions will offer detailed examples of potential litigation, as well as "highlight(ing) and encourag(ing) civil society/BDS actions that can achieve corporate accountability."
Two more Tribunals are planned. The third 2011 one in South Africa will address the applicability of Israeli apartheid. After the fourth session in America, later in the year, full conclusions and a final judgment will be published.
(1) Stephane Hessel, Ambassador of France, Honorary President of the RTP, France;
(2) Northern Ireland’s Mairead Corrigan Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate, a rare worthy recipient;
(3) South Africa’s John Dugard, Professor of International Law and former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories;
(4) Lord Anthony Gifford QC, UK barrister and Jamaican attorney at law;
(5) South Africa’s Ronald Kasrils, writer, activist and former government minister;
(6) Britain’s Michael Mansfield, barrister and President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers;
(7) Spain’s Jose Antonio Martin Pallin, emeritus judge, Chamber II, Supreme Court; and
(8) America’s Cynthia McKinney, former congressional member and 2008 Green party presidential candidate.
Committed for peace, equity and justice, RTP provides heroic support for Palestine. More information can be found on its web site, accessed through the following link:
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.