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Universal Jurisdiction to Hold Israel Accountable

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Universal Jurisdiction to Hold Israel Accountable - by Stephen Lendman

The well-established universal jurisdiction principle (UJ) holds that certain crimes are too grave to ignore, including genocide, crimes of war and against humanity.

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Thus, under UJ, nations may investigate and prosecute foreign nationals when their country of residence or origin won't, can't, or hasn't for any reason. Israel used it to convict and execute Adolph Eichmann. A US court sentenced Chuckie Taylor, son of the former Liberian president, to 97 years in prison for torture.

In March 2003, the Special Court for Sierre Leone (SCSL) indicted his father, Charles Taylor, for crimes of war and against humanity. His trial at The Hague's International Court of Justice (ICC) remains ongoing.

Though never held accountable for murdering Chileans and committing other human rights abuses, Britain used a Spanish court provisional warrant to apprehend Augusto Pinochet, hold him under house arrest for 18 months, and set a precedent, making other heads of state and top officials vulnerable. Pinochet's bogus ill health claim sent him home, irreparably damaged and disgraced.

Under Article 7 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg:

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"The official position of defendants, whether as Head of State or responsible officials in Government departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment."

No one deserves immunity for high crimes demanding accountability. It's time that applied to America and Israel, the two worst offenders.

In June 2009 at a Madrid, Spain conference, Raji Sourani, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) Director made the case, saying:

"Today, the Gaza Strip lies in ruins" months after Israel's offensive, killing about 1,500, injuring over 5,000, and causing vast destruction - "an illegal form of collective punishment" ongoing for over three years under siege. "For too long now, Israel has been allowed to violate international law with impunity....This situation cannot be allowed to prevail....It is for this very reason that universal jurisdiction is so important....(It) offers hope to victims throughout the entire world, in many cases, it is their only hope." It's long past time to hold Israel accountable.

The Compelling Case for UC

A recent PCHR publication is titled, "The Principle and Practice of Universal Jurisdiction," explaining it in detail with examples, its highlights discussed below.

Though horrific, Cast Lead was just the latest example of decades of Israeli lawlessness - little discussed, unaddressed and unresolved. "Regrettably, this lack of accountability, and the resultant climate of impunity, has been a longstanding feature of Israel's" illegal occupation. "Israel has been allowed to act as a State above the law."

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Yet it exists to be enforced. Otherwise, it's irrelevant. However, Palestinians have "limited judicial mechanisms available." According to the 1995 Israel-Palestine Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has no jurisdiction over Israel, including its officials, armed forces members, or other citizens.

Nonetheless, Israel is required to investigate and prosecute its citizens accused of international crimes, a responsibility it's ducked with impunity, a glaring deficiency in its judicial system, exempting war criminals from accountability, in violation of inviolable international standards and principles.

"Justice for Palestinians is not attainable within this system." UJ is the remedy, a "stepping stone (to) universal justice," to protect everyone without discrimination, to address crimes too grave to ignore, to set a precedent for future prosecutions, and warn offenders they're vulnerable.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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