The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) unreservedly condemns the Israeli Military Attorney General’s decision to close the case of the Samouni family without initiating any prosecutions.The Samouni case involved numerous well-documented allegations of war crimes, including the willful killing of 27 civilians, the direct targeting of civilians and civilian objects resulting in the injury of 35 civilians, and the denial of medical care for the wounded.
This incident, which took place over a number of days, was one of the most horrific single events in Israel’s 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009 offensive on the Gaza Strip.
PCHR has filed criminal and civil complaints on behalf of 62 victims in relation to the Samouni incident, and has provided significant evidence to the Israeli authorities regarding the incident, often without response.
The Israeli military’s claim that allegations of war crimes committed in relation to the Samouni case are ‘groundless’ simply defies belief.
PCHR believes that this incident emphatically underlines the flaws inherent in Israel’s investigative system, which have been documented in detail elsewhere, and endorsed by the UN Committee of Experts. Simply put, this system comprehensively fails to meet international standards.
Given the flaws inherent in this system – which three and a half years later has failed to result in a single effective war crimes indictment – PCHR believes that Israel’s legal system is used as a smokescreen to provide an illusion of investigative rigour, while in fact providing systemic cover for widespread violations of international law.
The decision to close the Samouni family case clearly indicates Israel’s unwillingness to uphold the rule of international law, and highlights the urgent need for recourse to mechanisms of international criminal justice.
PCHR notes that Israel has constructed numerous obstacles to victims’ pursuit of justice with respect to both criminal and civil complaints.
These include, but are not limited to, denial of physical access to courts for victims, witnesses and lawyers; denial of visitation between victims and their lawyers; and prohibitive court guarantees. Nonetheless, victims and their representatives placed their faith in the rule of international law, believing firmly that justice must prevail.
This decision – demonstrative of Israel’s longstanding treatment of Palestinian victims – illustrates the State’s systemic violation of its international legal obligations and constitutes official endorsement of military operations which include – apparently as a matter of course – the commission of war crimes.
PCHR notes that this reality, which makes a mockery of international law, would be impossible without the complete political and legal immunity extended to Israel by the international community.
It is clear that recourse must be had to mechanisms of international criminal justice, including through the exercise of universal jurisdiction.
PCHR calls upon the Palestinian authorities to immediately ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza , Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,