Ismail Ziada to the Dutch court: “Don't fail me. Don't fail justice”.

Ismail Ziada and his lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld (right) and Lisa-Marie Komp were fit for fight before the appeals case on 23 September in The Hague.

Ismail Ziada and his lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld (right) and Lisa-Marie Komp were fit for fight before the appeals case on 23 September in The Hague. (Foto: Ingunn Eriksen)

Ismail Ziada’s fight for justice was fought in a Dutch court of appeals last week. He is one of many victims of Israel’s war crimes. Ziada claims damages in a civil dispute for the murder of six of his family members during Israel’s attack on Gaza on 20 July 2014. In May this year, civilians were again killed during the bombing of Gaza. Civilians will continue to get killed during Israeli attacks if those who are responsible never are held to account.

12.10.2021 av Ingunn Eriksen
Sist oppdatert: 12.10.2021

The court of appeals of The Hague may play a decisive role in stopping impunity on grounds of immunity

The Dutch court of appeals will rule on whether the lower court made the right decision when it dismissed the claim for damages in January 2020. The court held that Benny Gantz and Amir Eshel have immunity by virtue of their official positions as then Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces and former Commander of the Israeli Air Force, respectively.   

Ziada’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, pointed out during the appeals hearing that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have dismissed so-called functional immunity in cases where a person stands accused of serious international crimes. 

And so has the UN International Law Commission (ILC). The lower court has thus been too conservative. They also did not consider the substance of question of functional immunity in this concrete case.

The Apartheid expert Prof. Dr. John Dugard attended the appeals hearing. Lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld (right) og Lisa-Marie Komp.

 

The UN has established that Israel committed crimes against humanity during the 2014 war

The UN appointed an independent commission of inquiry after the war in Gaza in 2014 and in 2015 they established that there was a hight degree of probability that war crimes were committed during the attacks. In the course of 51 days, Israel carried out more than 6000 air raids and approx. 50 000 rockets were fired from tanks. 1462 Palestinian civilians were killed, one third of whom were children. The commission attached great importance, inter alia, on the fact that Israel did not change their tactics even as the attacks cause great civilian losses. 

At least 142 families lost one or more family members. Ismail and the rest of the Ziada family lost a total of six members when their home was reduced to rubble by the bombs: The mother, Muftia (70), brothers Jamil (53), Youssef (43) and Omar (32), the sister-in-law Bayan (39) and the 12-year-old nephew Shabaan. A seventh person who was visiting the family was also killed.

 

Impossible for Palestinians to have an Israeli court hear their claim of war crimes

Dutch civil law allows hearing civil claims in cases where the wrongdoing has taken place in a country other than The Netherlands, provided one of the parties has sufficient attachment to The Netherlands and it is impossible to bring the matter before another country’s court. Ismail Ziada is a Dutch citizen and has his life centre in The Netherlands, while at the same time, he is, in actual practice, denied access to bring his claim for damages for war crimes before an Israeli court. Prior to the hearing, Issam Younis, Director of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, and the other members of an  expert panel  discussed in depth the administrative, practical and legal obstacles that prevent Palestinians from seeking justice in Israeli court of justice.

- The only possibility Palestinians have of achieving justice in the face of serious, international crimes is by filing the claim with a national court in a country to which they have an attachment. If the national courts do not hear these cases, international law will be further eroded and war criminals will continue to escape punishment, said Younis.

 

Strong appeal to the Dutch court

The judge gave Ziada the floor at the very end of the hearing. Ziada was not prepared to speak but, nevertheless, held an emotional speech that moved everybody in the room.

I stand before you today to defend my fundamental right to access to justice in my own country.

I could never have imagined that, in my search for justice, the war criminals would be protected, and the victim punished.

It was shocking to me that this right should be denied me through the use of functional immunity. I hope this will be reconsidered because, to me, it is as if my rights have been violated. I am the victim here and I am being punished. Functional immunity protects war criminals.

The other point I want to make is that when something terrible happens, as it did to me, you think that it will not happen again. But I was mistaken. Even in 2014 I was wrong. It could have happened to any other family member because the bombing didn't stop. 

And the, in May this year, I lived under the threat of at any moment I'm going to receive the news that one of my family had been killed in those attacks. And it was a close. My niece the daughter of Jamil and Bayan and the sister of  Shabaan, who were killed in 2014, the house next to hera was bombed and she had to run from the apartment with her two children. And you talked of four generations being affected in my case. Several people were critically injured during the bombing.  

The fact is that the opposing arty in this case, they are what I would call war criminals.  

This must be stopped in one way or another, or we must try to send a message that there is no immunity here.

I am unable to do it. I am only an individual facing the world’s fourth largest military power.  I am not Israel.

I am Ismail Ziada.

I can’t stop war crimes. You, honourable judges, can. So, please: Do not fail me. Do not fail justice.  

This is all I wanted to say. Thank you.

 

The appeal judgement is will be announced on 7 December. Journalists and supporters are expected to be allowed to attend.

There is an international campaign  through which individuals and organisations  can support the court case by donating an amount.

Ismail Ziada surrounded by Students for Justice in Palestine (Studenten voor Recthvaardigheid in Palestina)
Ismail Ziada surrounded by Students for Justice in Palestine (Studenten voor Recthvaardigheid in Palestina) Photo Ingunn Eriksen

 

Students for Justice in Palestine (Studenten voor Rechtvaardigheid in Palestina) rallied in front of the court and recorded declarations of support for Ismail Ziada.

 

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