A Palestinian family from Gaza City has filed a complaint against a French company, accusing it of complicity in war crimes for manufacturing a component of an Israeli missile that targeted the family’s home in 2014, killing three children.
The Shuhaiber family say five children were feeding pigeons on their grandfather’s roof when a missile struck the home on 17 July 2014. Brothers Jihad, 11, and Wassim, 8, and their cousin Afnan, 8, were killed immediately. The other two boys, Basel and Oday, suffered serious injuries. Even after extensive surgeries, they are unlikely to ever fully recover.
“The French arms industry cannot escape its moral and legal responsibility,” Ingrid Metton, an attorney with the Paris-based law firm Ancile Avocats, stated in a press release. “Selling pieces and components used to commit war crimes must be severely punished.”
This is believed to be the first time a complaint has been filed against a French company for complicity in war crimes, Hélène Legeay, program director at Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, told The Electronic Intifada.
Ancile Avocats and ACAT are representing the family.
The Israeli military never offered any explanation for the strike on the Shuhaiber house, which occurred moments after a brief ceasefire had ended.
The previous day, 16 July, the Israeli military fired a missile at a group of boys playing soccer on the beach, killing four children between 9 and 11 years old.
The Shuhaiber family is one of 142 families that lost three or more members in Israel’s 51-day military assault that summer.
In the debris of the destroyed home, the family found a device identifying its origin as France. Two independent military experts, hired by the Shuhaiber family’s lawyers, determined it was a Hall effect sensor which is made by Exxelia Technologies, a company that manufactures military components.
The same device has been found in the debris of at least three other homes destroyed during Israel’s 51-day attack on Gaza, said Legeay.
The complaint seeks to determine whether the sensor was sold directly to the Israeli military, which would implicate the company in assisting war crimes.
The family has filed a two-pronged complaint accusing Exxelia of complicity in manslaughter and war crimes. A government prosecutor will determine whether or not to open a case against Exxelia.
If the prosecutor declines to pursue the complaint, the family can appeal directly to an investigative judge on the allegation of manslaughter only.
Legeay said that while prosecutors in France are not elected, they are nonetheless representatives of the state’s interests, posing a significant hurdle for the case to advance.
France’s highest court recently criminalized calls for boycotting Israeli goods.
“Instead of rejoicing selling weapons to countries that commit grave human rights and humanitarian law breaches in the Middle East, France should act in order that in the future, no French-made piece or component will be found on a war crime scene,” Legeay said in a press release.
If the prosecutor accepts the case and the war crime allegation is proved, a process that could take years, the head of the company could be criminally charged, and the company will have to pay compensation to the family.