Dutch Court Not Competent to Hear War Crimes Case Against Israel’s Gantz
A Dutch district court on Wednesday threw out a case alleging war crimes against former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz brought by a Dutch Palestinian who lost six relatives in an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip in 2014, saying it did not have jurisdiction.
The civil case for damages was filed referring to universal jurisdiction rules by claimant Ismail Ziada.
Judicial authorities in countries that recognize universal jurisdiction for serious offenses such as war crimes and torture can investigate and prosecute those crimes no matter where they were committed.
“A Dutch judge is not competent to rule on the case of the claimant,” presiding Judge Larisa Alwin said, explaining that universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility but not in a civil case.
In civil cases in national courts, Gantz enjoys immunity from prosecution due to his government function at the time of the alleged crimes, Alwin said.
A career soldier, Gantz led the Israeli military from 2011 until his retirement in 2015 — including during Operation Protective Edge in Hamas-ruled Gaza in the summer of 2014.
In the air strike that Ziada was trying to claim damages for, his family’s home was bombed. He lost his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and his 12-year old nephew in the blast.
Besides Gantz, he also sought the possibility of getting damages from the former commander of the Israeli air force, Amir Eshel.
Ziada told reporters he was very disappointed with the verdict but said he would fight on.
“Israel still enjoys impunity, everybody sees that and then the only opportunity to get justice is denied. This is unacceptable to me,” he said.
He is expected to appeal but said he would study the ruling before making a final decision.
Gantz is the main rival facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an election in Israel on March 2, Israel’s third in less than a year after inconclusive ballots in April and September.