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Israel war crimes question festers

Israel war crimes question festers
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Consuelo Maldonado, euronews: Gilles Devers, you are the spokesman for a group of lawyers who, in 2009, filed a complaint of war crimes against Israeli officers with the International Criminal Court. Since then, what progress has there been?

Gilles Devers: The facts are established in the Goldstone Report. Everybody knows that warcrimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. While Palestine has the legal competence but has not exercised it because of the occupation, it can transfer this to the International Criminal Court. We are in a waiting phase which, unfortunately, corresponds with a double standard that has always been a mark of international law. But the crime is too big to be hidden.

Devers: You have been given a mandate by Gaza’s minister of justice to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners. Are you looking at filing a new complaint with the international court?

Devers: For the prisoners it is systematic torture, unfair judgements and conditions of detention – three chapters of violation of international law, therefore yes, the prisoners’ cases will be put before the International Criminal Court.

euronews: You are also investigating a case which in Gaza is called ‘the number cemeteries’. What is that about?

Devers: Some detainees die in prison and Israel refuses to hand over their bodies, which is to say they make dead bodies serve sentences. Therefore, through the International Red Cross, we tell the families when someone has died, but the family does not have a death certificate, so they do not even know, are never sure if there has been a death, and the bodies are buried in numbered cemeteries. The person becomes a number and continues to serve out his sentence when he is dead.

euronews: How many are we talking about?

Devers: When we last visited Gaza, we worked with the authorities and found that 350 families were concerned.

euronews: Let’s look at the military blockade. You are also working to free up goods exports from Gaza. What legal arguments are being used by Israel to maintain this blockade?

Devers: They say it’s for security reasons, which means absolutely nothing. Who can tell me that forbidding flowers from leaving Gaza is for security reasons? They’re waiting for these flowers in the Netherlands. We have a European agreement from September this year which will make them tariff-free from the beginning of 2012. The European Union, feeling very guilty about not helping Palestine more, removed the customs duties on Palestinian exports. Since these are free products, we don’t have to go through Israeli customs, and exporters are organising to send their flowers to Europe.

euronews: Are there products other than flowers?

Devers: The European Union is always playing a double game. It said that the lifting of customs duties does not apply to fruit and vegetables, as if the European market could be threatened by produce coming from Gaza. For the moment, Gaza can export flowers. It can also be processed agricultural produce. This blockade is illegal. It has been recognised as such by the United Nations, and there is, unfortunately, a consensus among western powers to pretend it is not there. It is a scandal, and we are working to weaken this blockade by legal means.