March 5, 2009
Interesting news from Israel popped to my eyes few days ago. A Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (National Union) has called for Israel to put former Spanish officials on trial for their role in the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. His official request was sent to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, in the wake of a Spanish court agreeing to try senior Israelis for recent Gaza operation. Although both cases – Spanish trial against Israel and International Court against Spain – probably end as curiosity to archives without any further implications they tell something about international criminal procedures.
Case in Spain
The story started last week when Spain‘s High Court announced it would launch a war crimes investigation into a Israeli ex-defence minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and 14 civilians in Gaza. The Spanish government is said also considering to amend a law related to case. (Source Irishtimes)
The Spanish court agreed a month ago to hear the case for prosecution of former IAF commander Dan Halutz, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and five other senior Israeli officials for war crimes over their decision to assassinate Shehadeh while the Hamas leader was in a building in Gaza City. Sixteen other people people were killed in the Israeli airstrike, including Shehadeh’s wife and child and other children. Israeli leaders called the Spanish court “delusional,” however, pointing out that Shehadeh was a terrorist mastermind responsible for the deaths of up to 100 innocent people.
Response in Israel
Now Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad is seeking to have Israel charge the former Spanish Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff for war crimes against the people of Belgrade and other Serbian areas. Spain, as part of NATO, was involved in massive airstrike sorties targeting Serbia during the civil war in Yugoslavia. “In those bombings,” Eldad’s petition said, “hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians were killed because NATO pilots dropped their bombs from extremely high altitudes in order not to endanger themselves. They thus caused mass civilian casualties. It is fitting that the State of Israel try the Spanish political and military leaders for war crimes if Spain does not immediately revoke the charges against the Israeli Defense Minister and Chief of Staff.”
According Mr. Eldad failing to see the hypocrisy inherent in the charges against Israel for its actions while NATO carried out the same, or worse, actions against Serbia, Eldad concluded, “is testimony to hatred for Israel – Israel the people and Israel the state equally – and the State of Israel must fight back against this wave of anti-Semitism.” (Source Arutz Sheva)
Bombings and after
Serbia has tried to put Nato already to International Court for war crimes during bombing 1999. And of course without success since big or important enough players don’t give a s…t about Hague and like U.S have already sealed an impunity with bilateral agreements in mission regions. More about these Nato’s war crimes here and here.
Some justice has anyway took place while afterwards Spain has defended international law in UN and EU by not recognizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence while U.S. and majority of EU member-states precipitately acted opposite throwing international law to garbage based illusion about Kosovo as unique case (which hallucination endured reality only few months).
EU can show strength while pottering with trivialities be it question human rights or money consumption in micro projects. If EU would like to act in line with its high-flown ideals it should stand straight-backed behind international court principles so that no country could be immune its rulings. And if some countries like U.S. look themselves to be above international law appropriate measures – such as sanctions – should be taken against it. And this probably is total utopia.
Two other aspects about war crimes I recently published:Ari Rusila