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Assistance To War Crimes Tribunal To Be Punishable

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - http://www.gush-shalom.org/

Press Release, 29/10/2002

A further threat to Gush Shalom
And to what democracy there is...

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Assistance to International War Crimes Tribunal to be punishable
Israeli Government Coalition Chair proposes new bill
Gush Shalom activists would face 10 years in prison

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While the Sharon government struggles for survival, another effort to hit Israeli democracy and in particular Gush Shalom:

A bill tabled today at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) would criminalize any assistance rendered by an Israeli citizen to the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. It was presented by MK Zeev Boim, a senior member of the ruling Likud party and chair of the government coalition. Under the bill, any assistance by an Israeli citizen to the Hague Court would be punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment.

The bill includes a detailed list of proscribed acts, all liable to such a punishment: "The provision of any information such as writings, photographs, documents, opinions and reports" as well as "The collection, keeping and preparation and transfer of information" and "The holding of investigations and the writing down of their results". Additionally, any association engaged in any such activities would be liable to be disbanded.

Evidently, the proposed law is primarily directed against Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, which recently cautioned 15 senior IDF officers that certain actions may lead to their indictment in the International Court. At the time, Prime Minister Sharon has demanded that Gush activists be indicted. The Attorney General, Elyakim Rubinstein, started an investigation but - after a wave of international protests, among them leading Jewish voices - the AG found that the Gush Shalom action did not violate any existing law. Thereupon the Minister of Justice, Me’ir Sheetrit, threatened to initiate a new law. The Boim Bill is evidently designed to fulfil this promise.

Once enacted, however, the new law could find a much wider application. In fact, any act of by human rights organization collecting and disseminating testimonies of human rights violations might be eventually construed as violation of the new law, on the pretext that the reports might find their way to the Hague Court and used by it as evidence. The same may hold for the Settlement Watch reports periodically issued which contain information about a clear violation of international law, and which are widely disseminated throughout the world.

“This bill betrays the memory of six million Holocaust victims,” declared former Knesset Member and Gush Shalom activist Uri Avnery. “After the Holocaust, the Jewish people fought with all its strength for the creation of an International War Crimes Court, and now the Sharon Government tries to destroy it. This is tantamount to an admission that they have something to hide.”

“Even the USA, which wants to exclude its soldiers from the jurisdiction of the Hague Court, has not dared to enact such a despicable law,” commented Adam Keller, the Gush Shalom spokesperson. “It would turn Israel into an international outcast - a country which first signed the Rome Treaty, and would now forbid its own citizens on pain of dire punishment from helping the same court. It would place the best of Israel's citizens, the sensitive and conscientious persons who care about human rights and international law, in an impossible dilemma: either be an accomplice to war crimes or face prosecution and imprisonment". Keller called upon the Labor Party, now at last starting to make its way out of the Sharon Government, to struggle against its enactment.

Under Knesset procedures, a private member's bill needs 45 days between being tabled and being presented to a vote, which gives some time for organizing an protest campaign. Sometimes during these 45 days, the Boim Bill should come up on the agenda of the Cabinet Legislative Committee, which should decide whether or not the government would back it.

For more information: Adam Keller +972-3-5565804 / +972-56-709603

N.B. Protests should be addressed to

Justice Minister Sheetrit sar@justice.gov.il and/or to the fax number: + 972 (0)2 6285438;

and to The Foreign Minister sar@mofa.gov.il and/or to the fax number (+972-2) 5303506 / 5303896 / 5303367

(As things look now, within a few days the Foreign Affairs portfolio might be held by somebody else than Mr. Shimon Peres; but whoever the minister, Foreign Ministry officials can be expected to be concerned for Israel's image in the world and therefore vulnerable to protests from abroad.) You can use the following text, or of course make your own.

Dear Minister

I am deeply concerned about the bill presented at the Knesset by KM Ze'ev Boim, which would make for Israeli citizens the collection of evidence of war crimes punishable as "assistance to the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague", nd which could lead to up to ten years of imprisonment.

The enactment of such a law would violate both democratic norms inside Israel and Israel's adherence to the international community and the institutions established by the community to maintain International Law. I call upon you to take all measures in your power to prevent such a bill from being enacted and becoming a shameful blot on Israel's law books.

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Transcript of the war crimes panel available on the Gush site For Hebrew http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/forum.html For English http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/forum_eng.html French available at request

At request, a selection of documents is also available in Spanish Also on the site: photo's - of action or otherwise informative the weekly Gush Shalom ad - in Hebrew and English the columns of Uri Avnery - in Hebrew, Arab and English (and a lot more) http://www.gush-shalom.org


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