Anshel Pfeffer | Ha’aretz
27 October 2009
Human rights lawyers and pro-Palestinian activists in a number of European countries hold lists with names of Israel Defense Forces soldiers allegedly linked to war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Existing legislation enables arrest warrants to be issued against these officers if they enter those countries.
Lawyers in Britain and other European countries have been collecting testimonies of Palestinians and other data from Gaza since January, which they maintain proves that war crimes were committed by the IDF during the offensive. The evidence is linked to IDF officers holding ranks of battalion commander and higher, who were in command during various stages of Cast Lead.
The other nations who have lawyers collecting information on the matter include the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Norway, whose laws, as well as Britain’s, allow the issuance of arrest warrants against foreign citizens suspected of war crimes.
Attorney Daniel Makover from London is coordinating the efforts in Britain. One of his colleagues visited the Gaza Strip several weeks after the fighting in order to collect testimonies. Palestinians civilians also gave the legal assistant their approval, and asked that he file the suits in their name, in line with British law.
Speaking to Haaretz, Makover refused to offer details on the identity of the IDF officers or how many were listed, but said that much depends on the specific details of each case. Makover said that anyone who was involved in an incident may face criminal charges. The attorney added that there are officers who are obviously candidates for charges, and others who are less obvious, but emphasized that it depends on the facts collected on the ground.
Makover said that the Goldstone report on the fighting in the Gaza Strip will bolster the efforts of the activists, and said that some of the instances mentioned in the report were already known to the attorneys. Makover is part of an unofficial network of attorneys operating in various countries in Europe, exchanging and sharing information so that suspected officers may be arrested in those countries.
The information is often received from pro-Palestinian activists who follow Jewish or pro-Israel groups that invite IDF officers to deliver lectures. In some instances, this information is relayed to border controls. Makover said that a small number of names of IDF officers is already on a British police watch list, and that when they arrive in Britain the authorities will issue an arrest warrant that will lead to their possible detention.
A number of human rights groups are busy working to create an international organization that would enable closer surveillance of those they suspect of war crimes and torture, as well as seek warrants for their arrest.
The IDF did not wish to specify the instructions it has given to officers before they travel abroad. In practice, many of the officers who participated in the Gaza operation have been asked to consult with legal experts at the Foreign Ministry, where they are instructed how to behave abroad and where they need to lower the profile of their identity; in some cases they are advised not to visit certain countries.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement saying: “The ministry is aware of efforts undertaken by Palestinian groups and their supporters to harm IDF officers through legal and public relations means, and is working to prevent such efforts.”