On the first anniversary of the latest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip 2014, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop in cooperation with the National Society for Democracy and Law (NSDL) on efforts made by human rights organizations to prosecute Israeli war criminals for the crimes they committed against the Palestinian civilians. The workshop was attended by a number of representatives of political and popular powers, civil society and public figures in Rafah City.

Lawyer RajiSourani, Director of PCHR, explained the human rights conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and the suffering endured by Palestinians under the cruelest conditions ever in tens of years since the beginning of the Arab Palestinian-Israeli conflict, especially following the Israeli offensive that left disastrous impacts on all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip. He also addressed the settlers’ terrorist acts against Palestinian civilians and their property, the latest of which was the arson attack on the house of Dawabsha family, due to which a toddler was killed and the father died later of his injury.

Moreover, Sourani highlighted the latest updates relevant to the prosecution of Israeli leaders and soldiers for the crimes they committed against the Palestinian people, pointing to the unprecedented cooperation among human rights organizations in documenting the Israeli occupation crimes especially during the latest Israeli offensive. He added that joint efforts are relentlessly exerted by these organizations to resort to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold the Israeli leaders and soldiers accountable for the crimes they committed against the Palestinian people. They also work on other files that constitute the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including settlement activities, the annexation wall, the blockade and the latest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Sourani tackled the achievements of human rights organizations in prosecuting Israeli war criminals and how they helped issuing arrest warrants against Israeli leaders in Spain, Britain and other countries. These countries regrettably amended their laws to prevent the arrest of the Israeli leaders. Sourani spoke about the ongoing Israeli attempts to hinder the Palestinians’ access to the ICC and pressure being practiced on the international community, Palestinian Authority and even community-based organizations to deny the Palestinians their right to access justice.

Additionally, Sourani pointed out that after President Abbas had acceded the Rome Statute and as long as the ICC is for prosecution individuals, no one would prevent the Palestinians from resorting to it. He referred to the new legal documentation done by Palestinian human rights organizations that enabled them to build highly professional legal files to be the foundation for filing cases on behalf of victims before the ICC. However, Sourani warned against having great expectations regarding the gains to be achieved by human rights organizations in international courts, as no country in history gained freedom by courts or the law. Freedom and self-determination only come by revolutions and resistance that are stipulated in the international law, but human rights organizations constitute an important civilized arena, where the struggle should go on.

When replying to questions raised by the audience, Sourani assured them that the Israeli authorities will not dare to resort to the ICC to prosecute leaders of Palestinian armed groups.  He also emphasized that according to the international humanitarian law, resistance is a right and duty of people seeking their right to self-determination.

At the end of the workshop, Sourani called upon the audience to form a committee from the national, political and popular factions and community-based organizations to support the efforts made by human rights organizations to head to the ICC in order to prosecute the Israeli criminals and have access to justice to ensure judicial remedy.

The audience appreciated PCHR’s role in prosecuting the Israeli war criminals and demanded that PCHR continue to hold workshops which raise the legal awareness of the Palestinian society.