October 30, 2011

Shalit, Terrorism & Legal Accountability

Over at It's Complicated there's reference to a post by Roee Ruttenberg at +972 Magazine that is a bit unusual.  Ruttenberg writes about some of released Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for Gilad Shalit, and says:
Some of the families of foreign-national or dual-national victims killed in these attacks could take their cases to their respective national courts and governments. A Palestinian prisoner like Ahlam Tamimi, one of the 27 woman being released, is being “exiled” to Jordan. Having been involved in an attack that left American and Dutch nationals dead, should could face extradition charges. Even if the Israeli Prime Minister signs a deal for their exchange, and the Israeli President official pardons them, does that hinder the rights of other leaders around the world to pursue them?
Israel may have had no choice but to let them go, but other countries might find it difficult to do the same, particularly if they have no soldiers being held by Palestinian groups, and even more so if they begin facing political pressure to pursue justice on behalf of their slain nationals.
To my thinking, jurisdiction might arguably extend beyond particular states to the ICC, or universally, if the states where they are found are parties and unwilling or unable to prosecute for war crimes or crimes against humanity.  And since the Palestinian Authority has even filed a Declaration recognizing the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and also seems obliged to prosecute if requested.

Although welcomed home as heroes, ALL of these people are convicts, guilty of crime.  Some have committed offenses that fall within the Rome Statute.

An organization that currently seeks such accountability is Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center, an Israeli based civil rights organization that litigates around the world for the rights of terror victims.

In late 2009, Shurat HaDin filed a petition to the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem demanding that terrorists who fire rockets into Israel be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as the Hague Convention and other international treaties, stipulate that deliberate targeting of civilians in the context of an armed conflict is a war crime, while deliberate and systemic assault against a particular civilian population constitutes a crime against humanity.  Conviction in these cases would carry a sentence without possibility of pardon or early release and include ineligibility to be freed in large scale prisoner exchanges.

Shurat HaDin follows the model pioneered by the Southern Poverty Law Center—a non-profit legal center that over the last four decades has successfully confronted and shut down racist groups across America. It generally "seeks to bankrupt the terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt - one lawsuit at a time." The flow of money to terrorists is their most important pre-occupation and their greatest vulnerability.

According to its web site, Shurat HaDin, using private civil suits, has obtained over $1 billion in judgments against terror organizations and state sponsors and $600 million in assets frozen. This compares with about $140 million frozen as a result of U.S. government action during the same time frame. It has also recovered over $72 million that went directly to the victims and their families, many of whom lost not only loved ones, but the basis of their livelihood.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 8, provides:
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 2 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says in pertinent part:
3. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:
(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;
(b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;
(c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.
Other states and parties should be unencumbered to to seek appropriate criminal and civil penalties.  The release by Israel should have no effect whatsoever, and Israel should freely provide evidence gathered in the investigation of these matters, particularly those involving core international crimes.  Or is it preferable to promote impunity and deny victims justice?

Kudos to Shurat HaDin, for using "lawfare" in a positive way against those who commit violent acts against civilians with intent to harm and terrorize as the objective.

I wonder if this is something the activist Left could support?


  1. I doubt the left would support this. dKos members CELEBRATED with the terrorist's families at their release.

  2. Wishful thinking on my part, of course, but the purpose here is not only to put forth the idea, but expose the double standards by which the "true" Leftists (who crow) operate.