Creating new perspectives since 2009

The Global Tribunal on Palestine is set to begin its work

May 16, 2024 at 2:45 pm

Students gather to stage demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians and protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne on May 09, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. [Muhammet İkbal Arslan – Anadolu Agency]

Since the announcement in early March of the establishment of the Global Tribunal on Palestine (GTP) by five human rights NGOs based in Geneva, efforts have been underway to ensure the success of this event. Dozens of jurists, lawyers, judges, historians and philosophers are taking part.

MEMO has been following this event closely since its inception. We reached out to the preparatory committee coordinator of the GTP, Dr Haytham Manna, to inquire about the progress of these efforts and to provide us with an update on the court’s formation, process — and anticipated outcomes — twenty days before the meeting scheduled for next month.

MEMO: Since the beginning of the century, you have been involved in organising several “courts of opinion and conscience” convened by civil society organisations, addressing various local issues such as the siege on Gaza, unilateral sanctions, the trial of George W Bush Jr, Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld, as well as the People’s Court against Israeli crimes in southern Lebanon. Have you concluded that such courts represent a limited form of action undertaken by civil society organisations in response to the atrocities of apartheid and genocide occurring in broad daylight?

Dr Haytham Manna: On 14 December last year, we convened the first International Symposium for Palestine in Geneva, where the central question was “The International Criminal Court: To be or not to be?” Our experience with this court over the past fifteen years has been disappointing.

During this symposium, the idea of establishing a tribunal to hold the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice accountable was discussed. Subsequently, on 4 March, again in Geneva, we held our second symposium to discuss the establishment of a permanent monitoring organisation called Tribunals Watch. Here, we broached the topic of forming a new type of court that capitalises on the shortcomings of previous endeavours. While I have participated in conscience courts in Cairo, Brussels and Beirut, for example, unfortunately, the outcomes of these efforts faded away after several months. Hence, I presented a new perspective in my intervention titled “How, why and when?” outlining a departure from our past experiences. This court is entrusted with fundamental tasks, including continuity, effectiveness and universality. The most significant of these tasks are:

  • Serving as a permanent platform to break the silence surrounding genocide, apartheid and other Israeli crimes.
  • Providing an open platform for victims, as well as researchers, investigators and jurists involved in cases of genocide and apartheid. Victims can resort to it to amplify their voices before international, regional and national courts.
  • Monitoring courts through Tribunals Watch by tracking cases brought before all permanent courts, lodging documented complaints at national, regional and international levels, and evaluating the performance of judges, prosecutors and the standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and justice within the judicial system and so on. You can follow this at
  • Serving as a forum for all lawyers and jurists advocating for accountability.

Similar to the Vietnam War, which gave rise to the most significant conscience court of the last century, the Russell Tribunal, amidst the student movement in 1968, I stated during my intervention on 4 March: “The genocide we witness against the Palestinians marks the end of an era, and a new generation must witness a new narrative that revives the spirit of 1968 to shape a different future. I am pleased today because students worldwide consider taking a stand on the Palestinian issue as a central link between the past, present and future.”

The Global Tribunal for Palestine can be considered our “Actual Russell” project, as the Russell Tribunal initiative brought together philosophers, historians, lawyers and legal scholars for peace and justice. Our current initiative involves an elite group of judges, lawyers, UN special rapporteurs and participants in fact-finding missions to Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Will their mission involve listening to or engaging with Palestinians who are victims of genocide?

This is one of the court’s responsibilities. Currently, a diverse group of researchers is preparing written papers addressing various aspects of the Palestinian issue. The court will listen to these meticulously-prepared field reports documenting the crimes of genocide and apartheid. All GTP documents will be compiled into a book to be published in Arabic and English, at least.

What happens next, after the GTP court?

The closing session on the final half-day is specifically dedicated to this matter. This session will entail:

  • Organising and electing the Standing Committee for the upcoming sessions of the Court.
  • Establishing a working team to monitor international, regional and national courts and evaluate their performance, political pressures and anti-justice lobbying.
  • Forming a research working group to provide an interdisciplinary approach to combating the system of genocide and apartheid in the Palestinian context.
  • Establishing a coordination group to advocate for victims and achieve justice among lawyers from various countries worldwide.

How do you evaluate the response and interaction with this initiative?

The demand for participation exceeded all our expectations. In about half a month, approximately 132 people from 38 nationalities requested to participate physically or remotely. We were forced to stop registering for physical participation, given that the preparatory committee wanted the physical attendance to be pegged at 76 people, the number of years since the start of the Nakba. This forced us to reserve an additional attached hall, and colleagues in Palestine also reserved a hall at An-Najah National University in Jericho, in which a large number of international law professors and lawyers will meet with us remotely, and there is an attempt to organise a similar hall at the Lebanese University in Beirut. This court will introduce the world to the highest Palestinian cadres, especially in international law, and will be a voice for the voiceless victims of the most important crime of genocide in this century.

OPINION: Together they arise, united against apartheid

Haytham Manna is an intellectual and has been a human rights activist for more than 37 years. He studied medicine, anthropology and international law in Syria and France. One of the founders of the Arab Commission for Human Rights, he has written on human rights, democracy, women’s rights and Islam and Enlightenment issues. He has published sixty books and works in Arabic, English and French, most notably the encyclopaedia Reflection on Human Rights; The Future of Human Rights; Civil Resistance; Building Citizenship; Atlas of No Violence; and his latest book, Justice or Savagery: For a Global Tribunal on Palestine. He is the founder and head of the Scandinavian Institute for Human Rights/Haytham Manna Foundation.