Case of Gaza family killed in their sleep taken to International Criminal Court

Relatives mourn over the bodies of members of the al-Louh family, at their funeral in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on 20 August 2014. They were killed earlier that morning in an Israeli airstrike on their home.

Ashraf Amra APA images

“We have become used to Israel killing and injuring Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” says Bouthaineh al-Louh. “But nothing could have fully prepared me for the devastating loss of my sons, grandsons and granddaughters in an attack against our family home.”

Al-Louh is one of the Palestinians whose cases are included in evidence submitted Monday to Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), of crimes documented by Palestinian human rights organizations during Israel’s 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Killed in their sleep

“On 20 August 2014 at 4:45am, Israel attacked our home in Deir al-Balah whilst my family was fast asleep. My son and two stepsons were killed in the attack, as well as my nine-months pregnant daughter-in-law and her three children,” al-Louh says in a statement from Al-Haq, whose director Shawan Jabarin handed the file to Bensouda in The Hague.

The evidence addresses specific attacks on Palestinian homes, hospitals, schools and high-rise buildings.

It was submitted by Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Aldameer and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights under a provision of the court’s founding Rome Statute that permits the prosecutor to launch investigations on her own initiative on the basis of information she receives.

This can include evidence submitted by states, human rights organizations and international bodies.

Monday’s submission is the first of its kind, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, whose attorney Katherine Gallagher accompanied the Palestinian delegation to the ICC.

If Bensouda’s preliminary analysis finds there is a “reasonable basis to proceed,” the prosecutor must seek permission from a panel of judges, known as a pre-trial chamber, to open a formal investigation.

Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza beginning in early July 2014, left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead, including 551 children, according to the report of an independent UN inquiry published in June.

Israel injured thousands more, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and devastated large areas of Gaza.

That inquiry concluded that the death and destruction was the consequence of a “policy, approved at least tacitly by decision-makers at the highest levels of the Government of Israel.”

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin, right, hands evidence of Israeli crimes in Gaza to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Hague, 23 November. 

Al-Haq

In January, the ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, dating back to 13 June 2014, which includes the attack on Gaza.

This followed the UN’s announcement that it had accepted the Palestinian Authority’s accession to the ICC as the “State of Palestine.”

In February, the National Lawyers Guild submitted a report to the ICC prosecutor debunking Israeli claims that the attack on Gaza was an act of self-defense.

Reluctant

Israel and the US administration of President Barack Obama have been implacably hostile to any efforts to bring accountability for Israel’s crimes.

Perhaps as a result of the intense political pressure on the court, Bensouda has been reluctant in at least one other major case to proceed with investigations of Israeli crimes.

Earlier this month, ICC appeal judges ordered her to review her decision to close a preliminary examination into Israel’s deadly attack on a ship full of activists in May 2010.

Bensouda has yet to reach a new decision on whether or not to pursue Israel’s violent raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-owned vessel that was part of a flotilla sailing in international waters on its way to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Ten people died as a result of the Israeli attack.

End impunity

Palestinian human rights defenders and Israel’s victims hope that the evidence they handed Bensouda today will leave the court no excuse not to pursue justice for Israel’s victims in Gaza.

“We are confident that the information now at the disposal of the office of the prosecutor is sufficient to open an investigation, and urge her to act quickly to begin a formal investigation,” Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin said.

“Israel is unwilling and Palestine is unable to domestically hold to account Israeli perpetrators of international crimes,” Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, stated. “We need the ICC to break the cycle of impunity.”

“Our family will never again be complete, and our house is in ruins,” Bouthaineh al-Louh stated. “I hope that the ICC can acknowledge the crimes that we endured and punish those that deprived us of our loved ones.”

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Comments

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This prosecutor has indeed shown herself most reluctant to investigate Israel's depredations. Let's hope that the pressure now being applied by al Haq and the other Palestinian advocacy groups, as well as the ICC appeal judges, will stimulate her interest in justice. Personally, I would prefer that an independent prosecutor were appointed by the ICC.

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Could it be that there's a reason for the reluctance? Threats perhaps? Payoff? Surely the evidence is clear enough to spell out these crimes against the Palestinian people. They desperately need help from an impartial outside source. The US government appears to be controlled by Israel, and most of Europe seems to fear the US and Israel so much that they let this genocide continue unabated.

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If Madame Bensouda is not willing to take on the Palestinian cause then she is unfit for her post as chief prosecutor and should resign or be made to.
Who is running the ICC?

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.