A Dutch appeals court today ruled that Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was immune from civil prosecution in the Netherlands in a case brought over the deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.
The court upheld a lower court's finding of January 2020 that Gantz, as a high-ranking Israeli official carrying out government policy, could not be held liable in a Dutch civil case.
The plaintiff, Ismail Ziada – a Dutch national of Palestinian origin – said he lost his mother, three of his brothers, his sister-in-law and his nephew in the attack, which took place in 2014 when Gantz was Israeli armed forces' commander-in-chief.
In the suit, Ziada sought unspecified damages against Gantz – a career soldier turned politician – under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules.
The appeals court said the case concerned officials who carried out the policies of the Israeli state.
That meant "a judgement on their actions will necessarily include a judgement on the actions of the state of Israel," over which a Dutch court had no jurisdiction, a summary of the judges' decision read out in court said.
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Israel's Deputy Attorney General Roy Schondorf welcomed the ruling.
"It is a most important legal precedent that safeguards Israel's military commanders as a whole against similar attempts," he said on Twitter.
Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes no matter where they were committed.
However, citing international jurisprudence, the Dutch court said it could not be applied in civil damages cases in the Netherlands, even if they concerned alleged war crimes.
Rights groups have accused Israel of war crimes during its seven-week offensive against Gaza in 2014 which it called 'Operation Protective Edge'.
According to UN figures, about 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed in that conflict, including up to 1,500 civilians. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel also died, according to Israeli military and health officials.