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Will Turkish efforts to hold Israel to account for its crimes bear fruit?

Reading a statement at the front of Istanbul Çağlayan Justice Palace, November 2021 [Ansam Abu Owda]
Reading a statement at the front of Istanbul Çağlayan Justice Palace, November 2021 [Ansam Abu Owda]

A group of Turkish lawyers have filed a request with the Public Prosecutor calling on the government to pursue a war crimes case against Israeli officials for their actions in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Seven of victims' families came to the Istanbul Palace of Justice and filed a criminal complaint against former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli army Aviv Kochavi, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Commander of the Israeli Air Force Amikam Norkin, Commander of the Gaza Division of the army Eliezer Toledano, Commander of the Israeli Navy Aluf David Salama, and head of Military Intelligence Aharon Yariv along with other military officials and soldiers.

Dr. Said Aldahshan, head of the Legal Unit at Kusider Society in Istanbul and a member of the legal representative's advisory team, tells MEMO: "The motive behind this lawsuit is the injustice and crimes against our Palestinian people for decades. Particularly, the last battle against our people in Palestine was vicious, where it begun in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, and then moved to the Gaza Strip, where many children and women were killed."

According to Ansam Abu Owda, spokesperson for the victims' families: "Whole families have been erased from the Palestinian civil registry due to the crimes of the occupation against civilians in the Gaza Strip." She adds: "Turkey will just be the beginning, and we seek to deliver the image of the injustice against our Palestinian people to the whole world."

Reading a statement at the front of Istanbul Çağlayan Justice Palace, November 2021 [Ansam Abu Owda]

Reading a statement at the front of Istanbul Çağlayan Justice Palace, November 2021 [Ansam Abu Owda]

One of the lawyers, Gulden Sonmez, told the Anadolu Agency that the Public Prosecutor's Office will ask the Ministry of Justice to approve the investigation under the Crimes against Humanity rule, because the victims are foreign civilians and the crimes were committed in a foreign country.

This was not the first time that Israel's crimes have been presented in Turkish courts, the case of the Mavi Marmara aid ship was the first. Bilateral ties between Israel and Turkey came under strain in 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the vessel which was carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians in an effort to break the siege of Gaza in 2010. In total ten activists were killed as a result of the attack. Following the incident, a lawsuit was filed against Israel in 2012 in Istanbul, and the lawsuit included the names of 490 people from 37 countries. Months of talks between Turkey and Israel finally bore fruit in 2016 with Turkey announcing that a deal would be signed normalising relations with Israel after a six-year hiatus. Israel also agreed to pay out $20 million to the families of those killed on the vessel. As a result, Turkey withdrew the case.

Turkish President Recep Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously said that for Ankara, "the Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel's Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable."

However, he has also highlighted that even when relations were at their worst, the two countries continued to cooperate in the field of intelligence.

The question now remains, will politics constitute an obstacle to the newly submitted judicial submission? "Politics interferes in international litigation in one way or another, and the evidence is what happened in the Marmara incident. Although the victims are Turkish, a political settlement was reached between Turkey and Israel at the end," Aldahshan says.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleEurope & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestineTurkey
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