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Chilean court rejects war crimes lawsuit against 3 Israeli court justices

Dec. 3, 2016 5:23 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2016 6:58 P.M.)
A Palestinian youth rides his bicycle next to Israel's apartheid wall on the outskirts of Jerusalem in an undated photo. (Photo: AFP – Ahmad Gharabli) Published Friday, April 26, 2013
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Chilean court rejected on Saturday a lawsuit filed on Monday charging three Israeli Supreme Court justices with war crimes, including crimes against humanity, for approving the construction of the Israeli separation wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the lawsuit was rejected due to the fact that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, making Israel beyond the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), that the wall was an issue of “destruction of property,” and that the occupied West Bank was not in a “permanent state of conflict,” and therefore “isn’t subject to international humanitarian law.”

The lawsuit was filed by six Palestinian landowners in Beit Jala in the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem and alleged war crimes against former Chief Justice Asher Grunis, and Justices Neal Hendel and Uzi Vogelman.

The claimants reportedly own the land that is expected to be cut off from their village by the separation wall, while five of the plaintiffs are Chilean nationals, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

The legal team, headed by Nicholas Paves, reportedly said that they would file an appeal with the Chilean Supreme Court, according to Haaretz, based on the following grounds: that universal jurisprudence is enshrined in the Chilean constitution, and is not subjected to the terms of the ICC; that the uprooting of land in the West Bank was not just a case of property destruction, but has also been directly complicit in the displacement of a protected population, which is against international law; and a "misinterpretation of facts" since a "terrorist attack" had not taken place in the area for several years, but Palestinians have been routinely subjected to human rights violations.

Residents in Beit Jala have been engaged in a decade-long legal battle against a 2006 Israeli military order to build the separation wall around Beit Jala and the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Gilo.

In 2013, 58 local landowners, as well as nuns from the Silesian women's monastery in Cremisan who joined their legal action, lost an appeal against the route of the separation wall.

Residents hoped that an Israeli Supreme Court decision in 2014 --which ordered the Israeli state to justify the route of the separation wall in Beit Jala's Cremisan valley -- was an indication that the proposed land seizure could be canceled.

However, in July last year the Israeli Supreme Court approved the construction of the wall using an alternative route, which would still separate the Silesian monastery and convent from the community it serves in Beit Jala, while swallowing the Cremisan Valley onto the Israeli side of the separation barrier.

The Cremisan Valley lies between the sprawling settlement of Gilo in annexed East Jerusalem, and the smaller West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, a few kilometers to the southwest.

Palestinians have long argued that the separation wall in Cremisan had no security benefit for Israel and was being constructed to annex land and connect the illegal settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo.

Israel's High Court of Justice in January also denied a petition filed against the wall's construction by the municipality of Beit Jala, Beit Jala's landowners, and the Silesian monastery, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Israeli authorities renewed construction of the separation wall in Cremisan earlier this year, despite international condemnation, as the European Union warned that once finished, the wall would severely restrict nearly 60 Palestinian families' access to their agricultural land, likely devastating their livelihoods.

Nearly 60 kilometers of the wall already cut through Bethlehem district and are built on Palestinian land, according to the UN.

The ICJ issued an advisory opinion in 2004 stating that the wall was illegal under international law and its construction must stop immediately, adding that reparations should be paid to Palestinians whose properties were damaged as a result of the construction.

Twelve years later, the construction of the wall has continued unabated as more than 62 percent of the construction has been completed, encroaching deep into the Palestinian territory, leaving Palestinian neighborhoods stranded on both sides of the barrier, and isolating communities from their agricultural lands.

When complete, the majority of the wall’s construction, 85 percent, will have been built inside the occupied Palestinian territory over the Green Line, consuming vast tracts of Palestinian land along its way and consuming land in Area C -- the two-thirds of the the West Bank that are under full Israeli military and civil control -- where illegal settlements have been built or are planned to be constructed in the future.
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