Wednesday 4th March 2009
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was launched today at a press conference chaired by Stéphane Hessel, Ambassador of France. The initiators, Ken Coates, Chairman of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Leila Shahid, General Delegate of Palestine to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg and Nurit Peled, Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, discussed the history and reasons on why they called for the creation of this Tribunal. Speaking for the Organising Committee, the former Belgian Senator Pierre Galand explained how it will work. Amongst more than a hundred international personalities who have given their support to this Tribunal, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Raji Surani, Jean Ziegler, François Rigaux, Jean Salmon and François Maspero were present to give encouragement.
In the tradition of the Russell Tribunal on War Crimes in Vietnam, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine is a citizens' initiative that aims to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the basis for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and at raising awareness of the responsibility of the international community in the continuing denial of the rights of the Palestinian people.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine will base its work on Experts' and Witnesses' Committees that will establish the facts and build up the legal arguments that will be presented to the Tribunal. National Support Committees will contribute to the preparation of experts' reports, promote popular mobilisation and media coverage and participate in fundraising. We can already count on strong support from the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, Lebanon, Algeria, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Egypt and, of course, from Israel and Palestine. Further contacts are under way for the creation of such Committees in other countries and continents.
Once the accusation has been fully prepared and the witnesses summoned, the sessions of the Tribunal will be organised at the beginning of 2010 in several major capitals. A jury made up of well-known personalities who are respected for their high moral standing will consider the reports and hear the witnesses for and against.
The jury will announce its conclusions which, we are persuaded, will attract widespread international public and political support, thereby contributing to a just and durable peace in the Middle East.