Palestinian rights groups hand dossier on Israel to World Court

Israeli soldiers force a Palestinian man into an army vehicle after troops entered an area controlled by the Palestinian authority in the divided city of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on September 20, 2017. Palestinian human rights lawyers on Wednesday handed a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court alleging that Israeli authorities are responsible for crimes including apartheid and persecution in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Palestinian rights groups hand dossier on Israel to World Court

THE HAGUE/JERUSALEM: Palestinian human rights lawyers and activists on Wednesday handed a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court alleging that Israeli authorities are responsible for crimes including apartheid and persecution in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The documents are an attempt to provide evidence for an ongoing preliminary probe opened in 2015 by prosecutors at the global court into crimes committed on Palestinian territories.
The so-called preliminary examination aims to establish if there are sufficient grounds for opening a full-scale investigation into alleged crimes by Israel, but also by Palestinians, during and since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, said in a statement that the dossier includes evidence that Israel forcibly removes Palestinians from the territories and replaces them with Israeli settlers.
“The communication to the International Criminal Court offers hope that anybody that commits crimes against Palestinians will be held to account,” Jabarin said. “We are convinced that there can be no lasting and genuine peace without justice.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry was studying the submission and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, called the transfer of Israeli settlers into occupied Palestinian territory, “a unique war crime in that it is coupled with the confiscation of massive tracts of Palestinian land, the extensive destruction of Palestinian property, and the tearing apart of the Palestinian social fabric and way of life.”
Under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, anybody can send prosecutors details of alleged crimes, but that does not mean the court will open a full investigation. It is unclear how long the preliminary examination of the Palestinian allegations will take.
In a written comment e-mailed to The Associated Press, the court’s prosecution office said it will “analyze the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality.”
Netanyahu rejects court call
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brushed aside a Supreme Court warning over his refusal to implement a deal allowing women and men to pray together at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
A Justice Ministry statement issued on Tuesday said the state attorney’s office had informed the court that Netanyahu was sticking to his decision to freeze the January 2016 agreement, arguing it was non-binding and subject to government policy needs.
Netanyahu’s right-wing government had agreed after a long campaign by reform Jewish groups to allow mixed worship at a section of east Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
But under pressure from ultra-Orthodox political parties, whose support is vital for the government’s slender parliamentary majority, the Israeli prime minister in June froze implementation of the scheme indefinitely.
The freeze angered the influential American Jewish community, the majority of whom follow more liberal strands of Judaism.
Israeli NGOs filed suit with the supreme court asking that it compel the government to honour the agreement and last month the court asked the government to reconsider the freeze.
“If the answer is in the negative,” the court wrote at the time, the state should address the question “if the possibility exists in law to compel the government to implement the agreement.”
The government’s written response said “no” on both points.


Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

Updated 45 min 19 sec ago
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Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

  • Niraz Saied was arrested by security forces in October 2015

BEIRUT: An award-winning Palestinian-Syrian photographer who documented life in the Yarmuk refugee camp in southern Damascus has died after nearly three years in regime detention, his partner said on Monday.
Niraz Saied, who himself hailed from the Palestinian camp, was arrested by security forces in October 2015.
His longtime partner, Lamis Alkhateeb, wrote on Facebook on Monday that Saied had died while in detention. He was believed to be 27 years old.
“There’s nothing harder than writing these words, but Niraz doesn’t die in silence,” wrote Alkhateeb, who lives in Germany.
“They killed my darling, my husband, my Niraz — they killed you, my soul. Niraz died in the Syrian regime’s prisons,” she wrote.
It was not clear how Alkhateeb had learned of Saied’s death, and she did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for additional comment.
Their relationship had formed part of the 2014 film “Letters from Yarmuk,” which featured clips filmed by Saied of daily life in the battered, besieged camp.
That same year, Saied won a photography competition run by the United Nations’ Palestinian agency (UNRWA) with a snapshot titled “The Three Kings.”
It depicted the downtrodden faces of three brothers waiting to be evacuated from the camp for medical treatment.
“You can’t find a complete family in the refugee camp,” Saied said after winning the award.
“I used to feel that in every portrait of a Palestinian family you could see the shadow of a person missing, and that is why my photos are dimly lit. But there is always hope.”
Yarmuk was once a thriving southern district of Syria’s capital home to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees as well as Syrians.
Syria’s government imposed a crippling siege on it in 2012 and activists inside — including Saied — documented the dire humanitarian situation with photographs of gaunt families waiting for aid.
The Daesh group overran the camp in 2015. In May, after a blistering government assault, the ruins of the camp returned to government control.
Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been forcibly disappeared since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011, the vast majority by government forces.
Rights groups have accused the regime of large-scale torture and extrajudicial killing in its prisons.
Families of detainees often hear nothing after the arrest, but in recent months some are discovering their detained relatives have been officially registered as deceased.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said that within less than a month, some 28 families were either informed their detained relative was dead or told to come retrieve the body.
Hundreds more discovered their relative was recorded as “deceased” by government agencies while filing other kinds of paperwork.
Saied’s childhood friend Ahmad Abbasi described him as “the finest person I knew.”
“In the early days of his detention, we heard that he was still alive. Then we didn’t know anything.”