The International Conference on "Promoting Criminal Accountability for War Crimes and Grave Violations ... Palestine as a Model" Concludes A


The International Conference on "Promoting Criminal Accountability for War Crimes and Grave Violations ... Palestine as a Model" Concludes Activities

The international conference on "Promoting Criminal Accountability for War Crimes and Grave Violations ... Palestine as a Model" concluded its activities today in Cairo, which was held on the 22nd and 23rd of March 2021. The conference was organized in partnership between the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt, and in cooperation with the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights and the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions.

The conference was held with the participation of 70 participants, representatives of elite politicians, judges, and Arab, Palestinian and international experts in international and criminal law. The conference was also attended by academics in political science and official representatives from the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representation from the Arab League, the Arab Lawyers Union, and Egyptian and Arab non-governmental organizations, leaders of leading Palestinian human rights organizations, and media professionals, in addition to virtual participation due to the Corona pandemic restrictions.

The second day had three sessions, the third of which was entitled “Ways to enhance efforts to support the investigations of the court.” Dr. Nevin Musaad, Professor of Political Science chaired the session that included different speakers. Dr. Muhammad Tarawneh, Judge of the Court of Cassation in Jordan, Ammar Dweik, the Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine, Samir Zaqout, Director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights - Palestine and Moataz Qafisha, representative of the Palestinian Bar Association virtually attended the third session.

In his speech, Tarawneh affirmed that the Israeli side is armed with the fait accompli situation and its strong  network of international relations. He said, “We want to build on what we achieved” and added “Our meeting in Cairo has great significance that Egypt will not abandon the Palestinian cause, Palestine is recognized by 138 countries around the world, adding, "The battle is long and we have a lesson to learn from the Egyptian experience in restoring complete Taba."

Tarawneh called for establishing Arab alliances, uniting Arab efforts and providing support to the Palestinian delegation in preparing the pleadings. He explained that Israel fears the ICC, which is evident in the fact that it has a list of about 250 Israeli names it always warns them against traveling to ICC member states and works to remove their names from the list.

Al-Tarawneh stressed the importance and necessity of distancing the court from attempts to politicize it, saying, "Our battle is purely legal in defense of the rights and we are ready to take it and litigate," while stressing the importance of activating international notices and Interpol at the global and Arab levels.

Ammar Dweik, Director General of the Independent Commission for Human Rights - Palestine emphasized that the Palestinian action within the international framework is not new, and stressed the need to review the formation of the Palestinian National Committee to follow up on Palestine's accession to international agreements and activate its role, especially after the death of Dr. Saeb Erekat

Dweik called for the need to review Palestinian legislations in line with the laws of the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute. As the Arab and international levels, he said, “we hope that this conference will come out with a committee called “the ICC Follow-up Committee” whose core consists of this conference’s participants and later includes others . furthermore, we need to shed light on violations against human rights defenders, who cooperate with the court.”

While Samir Zaqout, Director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Palestine, we must unite and work as a single team to facilitate our decision-making, adding that the occupation is trying to co-opt by establishing mechanisms to show that it is in line with the international system.

He continued, we must engage with these mechanisms to prove their failure, stressing that today it has become proven that there is no justice system in Israel. Zaqout called for working to build an Arab coalition that should be ready to provide financial support to the court if the court's financial sources dry up, provide expertise and try to address the pressures facing the court.

Mu'taz Qafisha, a representative of the Palestinian Bar Association, warned that dealing with the court is very difficult and needs a lot of time and effort, explaining that preparing the memorandum will take more than three months.

He considered what Israel is doing in the Gaza Strip an ethnic cleansing crime and that action must be taken to prove it, while stressing the importance and emphasis on the scientific, legal, technical and academic aspects.

In a related context, Dr. Salah Salam, a member of the National Council for Human Rights chaired the fourth session entitled “Towards the Formation of an International Coalition to Support Accountability Efforts”. During the session, Sultan Al-Jamali, Executive Director of the Arab Network for Institutions, and Dr. Hazem Atlam, Professor of International Law - Egypt and Dr. Ayman Salama, Professor of Criminal Law – Egypt gave speeches.

 Dr. Ayman Salama said that since the violations in 2008, Palestine ranked well in documenting crimes. He said that social media must be used in this documentation, adding, “We must not overlook the efforts of the member states of the court and the necessity to communicate with those countries, support the court and assist the public prosecutor in the investigation procedures. Therefore, the task will be difficult because Israel will not facilitate the work of the Prosecutor.”

In his speech, Sultan Al-Jamali suggested that, after deliberating with the partners, we propose to form a follow-up team consisting of the Al-Mezan Center, Al-Haq Center, the National Council, and the Arab Network for National Institutions, the Arab Organization for Human Rights and the Palestinian Independent Commission. He proposed that the aforementioned team meets to set tasks, distribute roles and an action plan to support efforts before the Criminal Court.

The session witnessed an intervention by Issam Yunus, during which he emphasized that the court is not a political issue, but rather a case of justice par excellence, warning that the absence of accountability means that the series of crimes will continue and will not end.

At the conclusion of the conference, Alaa Shalaby, Chairman of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, delivered the closing statement of the conference. The statement called for building on the previous efforts of the Arab and Palestinian civil society in preparing case files against the occupation war criminals. It also called to avoid any mistakes that have been committed in this regard and to urge Arab and allied countries to support and strengthen the protection of the ICC and its judges against campaigns of threats and intimidation by the occupying power and its allied countries. The statement also urged the international community to confront attempts to politicize the work and investigations of the International Criminal Court and undermine its independence.

The final statement included the most prominent points around which the participants agreed. Mainly, the welcoming of the court's general prosecutor’s decision to initiate investigations and the pre-trial chamber’s decision with spatial jurisdiction that confirmed support to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 2004. The statement considered the above as an important additional asset to protect the right of the Palestinian people to its entire territory that Israel occupied in June 1967. The statement affirmed that the Palestinian issue is a human rights issue and a cause of justice par excellence for the implementation of international legitimacy resolutions.

It also recommended emphasizing that the Arab conflict with the occupation authority does not end with settlements or financial or moral compensation, unlike what suspicious initiatives proposed. The statement also recommended emphasizing that national alignment in the face of the occupation is a priority that puts the Arab and international community before its responsibilities towards the Palestinian cause.

The recommendations noted the importance of emphasizing that any unilateral steps by the major countries that violate international legitimacy resolutions have no value at the international level, regardless of their influence on those not related to the cause. Such unilateral steps include the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the occupying state. The recommendations further affirmed that the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is complementary to the national criminal jurisdiction and stressed the importance of states to exercise their criminal jurisdiction over persons responsible for committing international crimes.