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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spain court to investigate Israeli role in 2002 Gaza bombing
Christian Ehret at 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the National Court of Spain ordered [text, PDF in Spanish] an investigation Thursday of former Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer [official profile] and six soldiers under his command for alleged crimes against humanity committed in a 2002 attack in the Gaza Strip. Judge Fernando Andreu issued the order in response to a complaint brought by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights [advocacy website] in regards to the 2002 bombing of former Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh's home in Gaza City that killed 15 people [NYT report], including Shehadeh and his family, and resulted in approximately 140 injuries. Andreu found universal jurisdiction [El Pais report, in Spanish; HRW backgrounder, P] for the case under Article 23.4 [UN backgrounder] of the Judicial Power Organization Act, which allows Spanish courts to prosecute people outside of Spain for war crimes, even when no Spanish citizens are involved. Andreu's order was heavily criticized [Haaretz report] by Ben-Eliezer and Defense Minister Ehud Barak [official profile] as well as opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu [advocacy website].

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced [JURIST report] on Sunday that he would protect members of the Israeli military involved in the current Gaza conflict [JURIST news archive] from foreign prosecution for war crimes. Spanish courts have attempted to the principle of universal jurisdiction to try several other international cases, including allegations of war crimes and genocide in Tibet, Guatemala, and China [JURIST reports]. In 1998, the National Court of Spain invoked universal jurisdiction to issue an arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive].

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