Dutch Palestinian sues Israel’s Gantz for war crimes

A Dutch Palestinian who lost six relatives during a 2014 bombing of Gaza sought compensation yesterday from former Israeli armed forces chief and prime ministerial hopeful Benny Gantz.

Ismail Ziada’s complaint was filed against Gantz and former Air Force Commander Amir Eichel, a press release issued by the Palestine Justice Campaign said, invoking “universal jurisdiction” laws.

“I struggle to stand in front of you today to gain justice and accountability,” Reuters reported Ziada telling Dutch judges, referring to the “unspeakable tragedy” that befell his family.

On Sunday 20 July 2014, the Israel air force bombed the Ziada family home in Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip resulting in the death of Ziada’s 70-year-old mother, three of his brothers, the wife of one of his brothers, his 12-year-old nephew, and a visitor who happened to be at the house at the time of the attack.

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Thom Dieben, a lawyer on behalf of Gantz and his co-defendant told the court the case should be dismissed because it violated state sovereignty rules and Dutch courts do not have jurisdiction.

“The Israeli courts are the appropriate forum for the complainant to file his case,” Dieben said.

Benny Gantz, former Israeli military chief of staff and presidential candidate in Tel Aviv on 29 January 2019 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images]

Benny Gantz, former Israeli military chief of staff and presidential candidate in Tel Aviv on 29 January 2019 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images]

He also argued that the defendants have immunity from prosecution because the deaths occurred while they were carrying out official government functions.

The bombing of the Ziadi residence occurred during a seven-week conflict in which, according to Gaza health officials, 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed.

Codified under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, universal jurisdiction allows domestic courts to prosecute individuals for serious crimes that did not take place on their territory or were committed by their nationals.

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However, prior attempts to prosecute Israeli officials under universal jurisdiction have failed.

Ziada told judges that Israel had put in place a “system of occupation, oppression and denial of rights” for Palestinians.

“If immunity is rewarded, I effectively have no recourse to justice at all,” he said.

Liesbeth Zegveld, Ziada’s lawyer, dismissed defence attorney Dieben’s claim of immunity, citing jurisprudence in past Dutch criminal cases that successfully applied universal jurisdiction in Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Suriname.

Judges then adjourned for deliberations and said a ruling on would be rendered on Jan. 29, 2020.