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Israelis face war crimes charges in South Africa

Pro-Palestinian supporters hold placards reading 'Boycott Apartheid Israel' during a protest to condemn the ongoing Israeli air strikes on Gaza, in Durban on 18 May 2021. [RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP via Getty Images]
Pro-Palestinian supporters hold placards reading 'Boycott Apartheid Israel' during a protest to condemn the ongoing Israeli air strikes on Gaza, in Durban, South Africa, on 18 May 2021. [RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP via Getty Images]

South African civil society organisations have submitted an urgent legal application to the National Prosecuting Authority to probe and charge Israeli leaders for crimes committed against Palestinians. The legal move has been made by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) and Media Review Network (MRN). The organisations have been joined in this action by Palestinian academic Dr Haidar Eid, who is based in Gaza and is currently facing Israel's latest military offensive against civilians in the enclave.

Dubbed the "Al Aqsa Docket", the application to the prosecuting authority in South Africa calls upon the Director of Public Prosecutions, the head of the Priority Crimes Unit and the Minister of Police to investigate and refer the complaint to the International Criminal Court.

The complainants seek the prosecution of the apartheid regime's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu; generals and soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces; police commanders and officers; and political officials for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The comprehensive legal arguments put forward by the PSA and MRN," explained attorney Yousha Tayob, "insist that because war criminals are considered under international law to be enemies of all humankind, the complainants have an interest in the prohibition of such crimes."

Veteran campaigner Iqbal Jassat of the MRN added: "In support of the application, we point out that it is driven by public interest concerns. Without effective prosecution of those guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, there is a real risk of South Africa becoming a safe haven for such criminals as they are already able to travel to the country freely."

The civil society organisations and Dr Eid claim that South Africa's status as a responsible member of the international community requires it to hold accountable those committing crimes that shock the conscience of all humankind. "By fulfilling the responsibility to protect the doctrine of crimes," said Naazim Adam of the PSA, "the South African government will be acting to avert the further commission of such crimes."

The complainants affirm that the core principle at the heart of their effort to seek the prosecution of Israel's war criminals is the right to life. "As a fundamental human right, it is guaranteed by Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a non-derogable right in all human rights conventions, and thus stands as a barrier against extra-judicial executions and murder."

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