Category Archives: War crimes

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic

In the Syrian Arab Republic, massive and systematised violence – including the killing of detainees in official and makeshift detention centres – has taken place out of sight, far from the battlefield. This paper examines the killing of detainees occurring between 10 March 2011 and 30 November 2015. Its findings are based on 621 interviews, as well as considerable documentary material.

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Sweden FM calls for probe into Israel’s ‘extrajudicial killings of Palestinians’

Margot Wallström2

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on Tuesday called for a probe to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during recent violence, local Swedish media has reported.

Predictably, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that Wallström was “giving support to terror and thus encouraging violence,” calling her statements “irresponsible and delusional.”

Sweden led the way by becoming the first EU member to recognise the Palestinian state in 2014; to-date, a total of 136 other UN member states, mostly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, have given such recognition.

The corruption of international law

The Palestinian Authority has been celebrating its diplomatic efforts as a step towards achieving at least partial justice, particularly in seeking to hold Israel to account for war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Israelis themselves, meanwhile, have been receiving advice from former ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo on how to evade any possibility of facing such legal action. Justice, it seems, is going to remain elusive.

The basis for Israel’s impunity, consolidated by UN recognition and acceptance of settler-colonialism in Palestine, is now also set to be extended practically to the ICC, leaving Palestinians with little prospect for diplomatic engagement within the parameters imposed by international institutions.

The Jerusalem Post has published detailed comments by Ocampo with regard to Israel’s settlement expansion. Although refraining from endorsing any form of legality as regards settlements, the former ICC official has sought to influence perceptions as well as advice regarding the actual construction and existence of illegal settlements versus “criminal intent”, adding that “Israel’s High Court is highly respected internationally.” Thus, he gave the distinct impression that Israel can manipulate international law through “respect” and a competent defence that settlement construction is legal “once ratified by the country’s top court”.

Ocampo also advised that Israel should control the settlement debate by producing “twenty books on the issue” in order to dominate literature that, according to the ex-ICC prosecutor is “a completely new discussion with no previous law.” Israel was also advised to cooperate with ICC investigations, stating that while the UN General Assembly has condemned settlement activity, “[it] cannot force the prosecutor about how she interprets crimes.”

However, despite Ocampo’s attempts to differentiate between UN and ICC tactics, both depart from the same premise which legitimises Israel’s narrative from different angles. If the former prosecutor’s words retain any validity, ICC impunity for Israel would reflect the UN’s penchant for non-binding resolutions against Israel’s violations of international law.

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr Hanan Ashrawi refuted Ocampo’s statements. She insisted that international human rights law and international humanitarian law – citing the Rome Statute, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the ICJ Advisory Opinion regarding the Wall – have all deemed settlements to be illegal.

As Israel’s history has exhibited, however, the tendency of international institutions is to circumvent legislation in a manner that provides permanent impunity for the ongoing colonial project. The same attitude has been exhibited by Ocampo in his discussion of Israel’s military offensive “Operation Protective Edge” and the applicability of war crimes. Lengthy investigations and delays have also been addressed as working in Israel’s favour, with Ocampo declaring, “Bensouda [the current ICC chief prosecutor] would likely be patient as long as she believed the process was moving forward in good faith.”

Given that specific legislation has been manipulated constantly to shield Israel from accountability, a concept as ambiguous as “good faith” would likely be regarded as a multifaceted, convenient metaphor used as a reference in case of the slightest sign of revolt against the macabre oppression faced by Palestinians.

The ambiguous justification for colonial projects has many precedents and was manifested through the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. In the current context, despite Palestinian determination to pursue legal action through international avenues and hold Israel accountable for its crimes, it is likely that the ICC will adhere to the dominant narrative favouring Israel rather than set a new precedent that would signal a departure from its track record of selective prosecution.

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Sisi orders his henchmen to murder innocents in cold blood

Sisi’s failed regime continues in its attempt to drive Egypt to civil war as the only way to ensure its continuation. Residents of Sixth of October City, Egypt, were arrested without charge, taken to prison for a few short hours then released to a team of security police, taken to a nearby flat, and shot in cold blood. The media put out a statement that 9 “terrorists” were killed in a firefight with police. One of the men was Nasser Hafi, Muslim Brotherhood MP and lawyer. Here he is reading from the Qur’an 14 August 2013 at Raba’a al Adawiyya, just before the massacre, which he survived:


Pictures of the dead have gone viral on the internet – not of their faces but of their fingers, which were covered in ink from fingerprinting at the prison into which they had been admitted. This was all the proof people needed that these men had been dragged from prison and killed in cold blood. It comes as no surprise that Sisi ordered the arrest of all those who had taken those pictures. **evidence has been supplied that the 13 men, whilst in jail had been severely tortured (added 2nd July – ed.)**


Abbas and his government finally present their case to the ICC

We have followed the matter of the Palestinian Authority and the ICC closely on this site, and despite everything, Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Treaty in December 2014 and is now presenting the Palestinian case to the Hague tribunal.

In fact, today – June 25th, Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, is presenting a dossier to the ICC detailing war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed on Palestinian territory by Israel and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The report deals with three main areas: illegal Israeli settlement activity, the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, and last summer’s war in Gaza. It covers the period from 13 June 2014 to 31 May 2015, and media reports suggest that among other things, it includes information about Israel’s development of 2,600 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, and the killing of four boys on a beach in Gaza during the war. It details settlement expansion, house demolitions, land confiscation, and destruction of Palestinian property and olive trees by settlers and soldiers.

Requests made for the arrest of Egyptian junta leader Sisi in Johannesburg

Anadolu Agency reported today that the South African Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) in South Africa has filed an official request for the arrest of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he arrives in Johannesburg on Friday to attend the 25th African Union Summit. Yousha Tayoub of the MLA believes that Sisi committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that the upcoming visit would present a good opportunity for the South African authorities to arrest, investigate and prosecute the Egyptian president for his alleged crimes.

South Africa was a signatory to the Rome Statute, which formally established the International Criminal Court (ICC), which means that South African authorities can arrest anyone accused of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression.

The Media Review Network (MRN), a South African advocacy group, likewise supports calls for Sisi’s arrest upon his arrival in the country. MRN spokesman Ibrahim Vawda said reminds the South African government that the crimes committed by Sisi are universally condemned offenses, and that war criminals are considered enemies of all humankind. South Africa, as a young democracy mustn’t be seen as a safe haven for such criminals.”

Bedouin village razed 83 times must pay $500,000 for demolitions, Israel says

Bedouin Village razed 83 times


The unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Araqib was in court Wednesday, where the state of Israel argued the southern desert town must pay $500,000 [2 million Israeli Shekels] to cover the cost of demolitions, and more than 1,000 police deployed to carry out the destruction. Since 2010 al-Araqib has been razed to the ground 83 times, more than any other locality in Israel.

In Israel around half of the Bedouin population, 90,000 Arab-Palestinians herders, live in towns the state does not view as legitimate. Without “recognition,” these villages are pre-approved for demolition. In al-Araqib’s case additional legal battles over land ownership prompted Israel to issue the entire desert hamlet the mass eviction order. The state claims it legally expropriated the territory using Ottoman code still on the books during the 1950s. Al-Araqib’s residents still have copies of their old deeds and say they are valid and up to date.

While individual owners have been charged with the cost of demolishing a home in the past, this is the first case in Israel’s history where an entire town was told it must pay for its destruction. In instances when Israel demolished settlements, outposts the state viewed as illegally construction in the West Bank, those Jewish-Israeli towns were never later given a bill.

“[Jewish] Israelis were never sued before for the cost of these demolitions,” Khaled Sawalhi, an attorney representing al-Araqib, told me. Sawalhi has tried dozens of demolitions cases throughout his career. He underscored al-Araqib is unique in that could set a costly precedent for 45 other unrecognized villages facing demolition where land ownership is contested.

Israel has demolished more than 27,000 homes in the occupied Palestinian territory since its occupation began in 1967. When the state demanded Palestinians pay for the razing of the structures, the Civil Administration or the city of Jerusalem set the fees. In al-Araqib’s case, the fee is being demanded by the Israeli Lands Administration, a government agency that oversees state owned plots, and that is the plaintiff in a petition filed by the village.

“There is no justice in the way the state is handling it. We have proof that this land is theirs and that it is private property,” Sawalhi said.

After more demolitions than any other village in Israel, and rebuilding their homes just as many times, al-Araqib’s residents are now cramped in tents between gravestones. Since the demolitions began more than a decade ago, residents have moved into the town’s cemetery. Villagers do not see resting next to a headstone as morbid; camping is regarded as a creative measure to pose a challenge to Israel’s frequent demolitions.

“I hope that Ayman Odeh [a leading politician and head of the Joint Arab List] will do something,” al-Araqib resident Aziz Abu Madegam, 41, told Mondoweiss, lamenting, “I don’t believe that in this government he can change Israel’s politics.”

Abu Madegam was born and raised in al-Araqib and is one of the town’s most prominent activists against the demolitions. He lives in a small tent in the graveyard with his wife and six children. They own a car, and sometimes Abu Madegam sleeps there when the weather turns cold and rainy. His youngest son, age three, is named al-Araqib after the village. “He was born at the same time, the same minute that they [Israel] demolished al-Araqib,” Abu Madegam said.

Aside from the demolitions Abu Madegam’s family is constantly entangled in legal woes. The state dropped criminal charges against Abu Madegam’s father for “forcibly taking control” of al-Araqib’s land “failing to obey orders to leave the land,” last February.

In a separate case pressed by the Israeli Lands Administration, Abu Madegam is one of ten al-Araqib residents charged with a combined $1,300 [5,000 NIS] in daily fines. Those damages are for “arona,” or back rental fees in which the state has demanded payment even though the question of who owns the land has been locked up in court for years. Al-Araqib’s residents see these battles as attempts by Israel to drive them off of their land permanently.

Abu Madegam will be back in court this fall in late September– when the $500,000 penalty trial opens.