International legal export: Israel’s assassinations are war crimes

The first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and world renowned expert on International Humanitarian Law, Professor Antonio Cassese.

Opinion of the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and world renowned expert on International Humanitarian Law, Professor Antonio Cassese determines:

The assassinations are war crimes

The expert opinion will be submitted to the High Court of Justice tomorrow, June 18, prior to the hearing scheduled for July 18, 2003 on the petition submitted by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and LAW-The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment against Israel�s assassination policy

In an opinion, unprecedented for it�s severity, Professor Antonio Cassese, renowned expert on international humanitarian law, determines that the assassinations carried out by the IDF in the Occupied Territories could be included in the legal definition of war crimes. Professor Cassese�s opinion will be submitted tomorrow to the High Court of Justice prior to the hearing scheduled for July 8, 2003 on the petition filed by LAW-The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI).

Attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard filed the petition in January 2002. The panel of justices appointed to hear the petition is considered the most senior at the High Court of Justice and includes Chief Justice Aharon Barak and the Justices Theodore Or and Eliyahu Matza. The court has already rejected the State�s claim that the assassinations are not actionable. At the next hearing, which will be held after repeated postponements by the State, the Court will hear the petitioners� request for an interim injunction prohibiting assassinations until a decision on the petition is handed down. The petition claims that between the beginning of the Intifada and until April 2003 the IDF assassinated 156 Palestinians, in addition 80 innocent children, women and male passersby were killed as a result of these operations.

In his 20-page opinion, Professor Antonio Cassese states that the killing of civilians suspected of terrorist activities, if not carried out while they are directly engaged in these activities, is a blatant violation of one of the most fundamental tenets of international law � the obligation of warring sides to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Professor Cassese opinion is considered unprecedented in its severity due to the fact that he is considered a world renowned expert in International Humanitarian Law and his prestige among international experts in the field.

Professor Antonio Cassese served as a justice on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the years 1993-2000 and was the tribunal�s first president until 1997. In 2002 he was awarded an international prize by the International Academy for Culture, which is headed by Noble Prize winner Eli Weizel. The prize was awarded to Professor Cassese in honor of his �exceptional contribution to the protection of human rights in Europe and in the world�. He is a world-respected lecturer at several universities, among them the universities in Florence, Rotterdam, the Sorbonne and the University of Paris. He was a member of the UN Human Rights Commission and served as the president of the European Council�s Committee on Torture. He is the author of many authoritative books and articles in the field of International Humanitarian Law.

PCATI and LAW state that Professor Cassese�s detailed opinion affirms that Israel�s occupation of the Palestinian territories is in complete violation of the principles of ethics and justice as reflected under international law. The organizations state �The large numbers of complaints which daily accumulate in the organizations� offices on the severe violations of the rights of Palestinians are a testimony to the fact that the army has long ago stopped dealing solely with the defense of the security of Israel. The army and Israeli security forces are daily involved in violations of international law including assassinations, torture and severe physical and psychological violations of Palestinians. These actions do not prevent war, they create it�.

Related Links:

  • PCATI/LAW High Court Petition against assassinations (PDF), HCJ 769/2
  • The Assassination Policy of the State of Israel (Word-document), Part 1, PCATI/LAW, November 2000 - January 2002
  • The Assassination Policy of the State of Israel (Word-document), Part 2, PCATI/LAW, November 2000 - January 2002
  • LAW/PCATI Petition Against Assassinations (PDF), BGZ /02