PCHR strongly condemns the decision of the Israeli court this morning, Tuesday, 28 August 2012, that Israel’s forces are not responsible for the death of US peace activist Rachel Corrie.On 16 March 2003, Rachel Corrie, along with several other foreign activists from the International Solidarity Movement, was trying to prevent home demolitions in the al-Salam neighborhood of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. While she was protesting, a bulldozer deliberately drove over Rachel, a statement supported by numerous eyewitnesses.

PCHR submitted a request to Israel for question these eyewitnesses during their investigation, which did occur in the presence of Israeli lawyers representing PCHR. However, the initial investigation by Israel still concluded that her death was an accident.[1]

After spending nearly a decade fighting to have their daughter’s death declared a murder, including in the US courts with the assistance of PCHR, the family of Rachel Corrie received a final word from the Israeli court in Haifa this morning – the death of their daughter was a regrettable accident.

This lawsuit was originally filed in 2005 after Israel’s initial investigation ruled there had been no negligence, and hearings ended in July of last year. In the courtroom today, the Judge stated that there was no justification for requesting money from the State since the Israeli forces had done nothing wrong.

Rachel Corrie was the first international peace activist to be killed while protesting against Israel’s house demolitions. Israel’s house demolitions are a violation of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the targeting of civilian property.

Rachel Corrie was within her rights protesting this illegal activity and should not have been attacked. As per Article 10 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel, as the Occupying Power, is obligated to facilitate humanitarian workers in the Occupied Territory.As outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention Commentary on Article 10, this obligation is extended to any impartial humanitarian organization that performs activities, including but not limited to, “representations, interventions, suggestions and practical measures affecting the protection under the Convention.”

Rachel Corrie’s intervention at the house demolition falls under an approved humanitarian activity. Therefore, in addition to the fact that she was a civilian, a prohibited target under Article 54 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the killing of Rachel Corrie violated Israel’s obligation as an Occupying Power to facilitate humanitarian work.

This decision by Israel’s courts is just one of the many extending immunity to Israel’s forces, including another recent case where a soldier responsible for the death of two Palestinian women received a lesser sentence that did not reflect the gravity of his crime and only resulted in 45 days of imprisonment.[2] This air of impunity can no longer exist.

PCHR extends its condolences again to the family of Rachel Corrie and:

1. Stresses its support for continuing efforts exerted by international solidarity activists in support of the Palestinian people. PCHR appreciates the important role played by these activists who advocate for the rights of Palestinian civilians and speak out against the human rights violations committed against the latter by the Israeli authorities and settlers.

2. PCHR calls upon international organizations, including human rights organizations, bar associations and international solidarity committees to continue and expand their efforts in bring to justice Israeli war criminals, and to urge their governments to bring those criminals to court.

3. Calls upon the international community to immediately take action to stop this impunity, and reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1, which stipulates that ‘the High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances,’ and their obligations under Article 146 which requires that the Contracting Parties prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and under Protocol I Additional to Geneva Conventions.