By Stephen Lendman
Launched on March 4, 2009, "The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP) seeks to reaffirm the primacy of international law (to settle) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (by focusing on) the enunciation of law by authoritative bodies (and) address(ing) the failure of application of law even though it has been so clearly identified. (It begins where the International Court of Justice) stopped: highlighting the responsibilities arising from the enunciation of law, including those of the international community, which cannot continue to shirk its obligations."
RTP is part of the BRussell Tribunal, named after famed philosopher, mathematician, and anti-war/anti-imperialism activist Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970), who warned over 50 years ago:
"Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war" and live in peace, because there’s no other choice.
Established in 1967, the BRussell Tribunal investigated Vietnam war crimes, more recently Iraq war ones and Bush administration imperialism continued under Obama. RTP exposes decades of Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians, calling for an end to colonialism, occupation and apartheid and for justice, equality, and peace.
The First Barcelona Session (March 1-3)
Hosted and endorsed by the Barcelona National Support Committee and Office of the Mayor of Barcelona, under the honorary presidency of Stephane Hessel, a jury of distinguished legal experts and human rights activists heard reports from authoritative experts on issues including:
— the right to Palestinian self-determination;
— illegal settlements and plundering Palestinian natural resources;
— annexing East Jerusalem;
— the Separation Wall; and
— the EU/Israel Association Agreement
— Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate, 1976;
— Ronald Kasrils, writer and activist;
— Michael Mansfield, attorney and President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, UK;
— Jose Antonio Martin Pallin, Emeritus Judge, Chamber II, Supreme Court, Spain;
— Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia state legislator, US congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate, and prominent civil and human rights activist;
— Alberto San Juan, actor, Spain; and
— Aminata Traore, author and former Mali Minister of Culture.
Experts Heard by the RTP
— Madjid Benchikh (Algeria) – University of Cergy Pontoise Professor of Public International Law and former Law Faculty of Algiers dean;
— Agnes Bertrand (Belgium) – researcher and Middle East specialist with APRODEV David Bondia (Spain) and University of Barcelona Professor of Public International Law and International Relations;
— Francois Dubuisson (Belgium) – Free University of Brussels Law Professor;
— Patrice Vouveret (France) – President of the Armaments Observatory;
— James Phillips (Ireland) – lawyer;
— Michael Sfard (Israel) – lawyer;
— Phil Shiner (UK) – lawyer; and
— Derek Summerfield (UK) – Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry honorary senior lecturer.
— Veronique DeKeyer (Belgium) – EU Parliament member;
— Ewa Jasiewicz (UK) – journalist and Operation Cast Lead eye witness;
— Ghada Karmi (Palestine) – physician, author, Middle East expert, and University of Exeter Research Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies;
— Meir Margalit (Israel) – Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Jerusalem City Council member;
— Daragh Murray – Palestinian Centre for Human Rights legal advisor; PCHR’s Director, Raji Sourani, couldn’t attend because Israel and Egypt keep him imprisoned in Gaza under siege;
— Raul Romeva (Spain) – EU Parliament member;
— Clare Short (UK) – British Parliament member and former Secretary of State for International Development;
— Desmond Travers (Ireland) – retired Colonel and Goldstone Commission member.
It followed "methodology applicable by any judicial body in terms of the independence and impartiality of its members." Israel’s absence was no impediment. The evidence presented has been addressed by numerous other bodies, including:
— the UN General Assembly and Security Council;
— the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories;
— the Goldstone Commission; and
— various human rights organizations among others.
The RTP "simply dr(ew) attention to circumstances that are already widely recognized by the international community." Its proceedings dealt with:
— Israeli international law violations;
— EU breaches of specific and general international law rules; and
— EU’s failure to address Israeli international law violations and hold it accountable.
Findings and Conclusions
The RTP found Israel in violation of breaching virtually all international humanitarian laws as well as ones covering the rules of war and occupation, as follows:
(1) Failure to recognize Palestinian self-determination under provisions of the December 1960 UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and all UN resolutions before and thereafter affirming Palestinian self-determination, including:
— the UN Partition Plan (GA Resolution 181, 1947) granting Jews (with one-third of the population) 56% of historic Palestine, the rest to Palestinians with Jerusalem designated an international city under a UN Trusteeship Council;
— GA Resolution 2131 (1965): Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty, "reaffirming the principle of non-intervention," calling it "aggression;"
— SC Resolution 242 (1967) calling for an end of conflict and withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories; SC 338 (1973) repeated the same demand;
— the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
— SC Resolution 298 (1971) affirming "acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible," calling Israel’s failure to observe previous resolutions deplorable;
— GA Resolution 3236 (1974) recognizing Palestinian self-determination and expressing "grave concern" that they’ve been "prevented from enjoying (their) inalienable rights (to) self-determination….national independence and sovereignty….without external interference….;"
— GA Resolution 3314 (1974) on the Definition of Aggression in accordance with the UN Charter and Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and its judgment, calling it the supreme international crime against peace;
— numerous other SC and GA resolutions affirming the principles of international law, including Geneva’s Common Article 1 obliging all nations to enforce them, stating specifically: "The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances;" and
— Lisbon Treaty (December 2009) principles affirming fundamental freedoms, peace, democracy, human rights and dignity, justice, equality, the rule of law, security, tolerance, solidarity, mutual respect among peoples, the rights of the child, strict adherence to the UN Charter and international law, environmental protection, and sustainable development, and to prevent conflicts and combat social exclusion and discrimination.
(2) Failure to comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (the Apartheid Convention), defined by the Rome Statute to include murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, denial of the right to life and liberty, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and other abusive acts imposed by one group on another.
(3) Failure to observe international laws with regard to:
— illegal acts of aggression, including inflicting mass deaths, injuries and destruction during Operation Cast Lead, mostly affecting civilians;
— free movement, expression and the right of assembly;
— imprisoning Gazans under siege;
— denying the universally acknowledged right of return;
— refusing Palestinians the right to their own resources "such as watercourses within their land;"
— annexing East Jerusalem in July 1980 despite SC Resolution 478 a month later declaring the Jerusalem Law null and void and requiring its immediate rescinding;
— constructing the Separation Wall on expropriated Palestinian land (ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice);
— denying Palestinians access to their own land, air space and coastal waters and control of their borders;
— violating Fourth Geneva by building illegal settlements on expropriated land, dispossessing protected persons, and transferring its own civilian population to the territory it occupies;
— the systematic use of torture, abuse and degrading treatment, illegal at all times, under all conditions with no allowed exceptions;
— targeted assassinations and other willful killings of non-combatant civilians and others;
— and numerous other systematic violations of fundamental international laws.
The RTP found EU states in violation by:
— exporting weapons, munitions and components in support of Israel’s aggressive wars;
— buying produce from settlements;
— participating with settlements in research projects;
— not holding Israel accountable for its crimes of war and against humanity in Operation Cast Lead and other acts of aggression;
— not holding Israel liable for failing to observe international human rights laws in numerous EU-Israeli agreements;
— upgrading its relations with Israel under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Agreement;
— tolerating illegal European commercial operations in the Occupied Territories, including the Jordan valley Tovlan landfill site and East Jerusalem tramline construction; and
— failure to take determined steps to end the illegal Gaza siege, an act of slow-motion genocide through extreme depravation, causing a growing humanitarian crisis.
The RTP asks EU member states:
— to rectify their breaches by fulfilling their international humanitarian law obligations.
— implement an EU Parliament resolution requiring the suspension of the EU-Israeli Association Agreement, ending Israel’s impunity;
— observe the Goldstone Report recommendation to collect evidence and exercise Universal Jurisdiction (UJ) against alleged Israeli and Palestinian violators;
— repeal requirements that they be member state residents and other impediments to assure all suspected war criminals are held accountable;
— ensure member state UJ laws and procedures have teeth, are enforced, including by mutual cooperation;
— ensure no measures weaken or subvert UJ laws to assure no safe havens exist;
— have the Austrian, French, Greek and Italian Parliaments enact laws complying with Fourth Geneva’s Article 146, requiring "effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any" Convention breaches, including "the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts;"
— have individuals, groups and organizations use all available means to ensure EU member states comply with their international law obligations; and
— support the global BDS movement to hold Israel accountable.
The RTP "calls on the European Union and (its) member states to impose" diplomatic, trade and cultural sanctions to end the impunity Israel "has enjoyed for decades." If EU nations won’t do it, European citizens must pressure them by all available means.
— can Israel’s international law breaches be tolerated;
— should people demanding justice be denied;
— should Palestinians have to endure colonialism, occupation and apartheid; or
— accept anything less than justice, equality and peace.
– Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.