France pays great honor to lawyer who defended Palestinian cause at ICC – .

France pays great honor to lawyer who defended Palestinian cause at ICC – .

France bestowed its second highest honor on a Gaza-based lawyer who brought dozens of cases against Israel to the International Criminal Court, days before Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Europe.

Raji Sourani, a 67-year-old Gaza-based lawyer who heads the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, was awarded the rank of knight of the French National Order of Merit on Wednesday.

The ceremony, hosted by the Consul General of France in Jerusalem René Troccaz, took place at the French Cultural Center in Gaza City.

“As director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, you have contributed to the accession of Palestine to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” Troccaz wrote in a letter to Sourani before the ceremony, according to PCHR. “As a man of peace, you have worked tirelessly for justice and made every effort to achieve reconciliation. “

“The latest crisis and the latest tensions prove that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will remain at the top of international events and that France has taken several initiatives to promote the two-state solution and underline the fundamental principles of international law”, declared Troccaz during of the ceremony. .

In his remarks, Sourani accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians and vowed “to hold war criminals accountable.”

Sourani has represented hundreds of Palestinians before the ICC since 2009, accusing Israel of war crimes.

PCHR also submitted joint amicus curiae observations to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber, urging the court to investigate alleged war crimes committed in the West Bank and Gaza.

“PCHR has worked tirelessly for over 11 years to reach the ICC,” reads the organization’s 2019 annual report, “this work has intensified over the past 5 years after the prosecutor of the République announced the opening of a preliminary investigation in January 2015. From 2020, PCHR will use all its resources and energy in this trajectory.

In a February 2020 statement on its website, the Foreign Ministry accused Sourani of having “close ties” to Hamas, and PCHR of being involved in the violent Hamas-backed marches on the border fence. of Gaza with Israel.

Former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, center, and Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, right, attend the first hearing with Central African Football Federation chief Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, in the Netherlands on January 25. 2019. (Koen Van Well / Pool photo via AP)

The Foreign Ministry website also pointed out that Jaber Wishah, vice-president of PCHR until 2017, led the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank and had been sentenced to two life sentences. for terrorism and attempted murder. He was released in 1999.

Sourani founded PCHR in 1995. He rose to prominence defending Palestinians in Israeli military courts and claimed he had been subjected to mental and physical abuse by Israeli authorities during repeated detentions. .

Sourani won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1991 with Israeli human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman.

“It is disturbing that France bestows such a high honor on someone who openly takes credit for arguing in favor of the case against the State of Israel before the International Criminal Court and has been found guilty involvement in terrorism in the past, ”said Olga Deutsch, vice-president of NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel organization.

Palestinians pray near the bodies of members of the Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terrorist group who died in the Israeli bombing of a tunnel, during their funeral in Khan Younis, southern Sudan. Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that France has done something like this. In 2018, France bestowed its Human Rights Award on Shawan Jabarin, leader of Al-Haq, who is one of the main voices in the politicization of human rights and the demonization of Israel at the international level.

The National Order of Merit recognizes “acts of dedication, bravery, generosity, real merit or a measurable commitment to the service of others or of France”, according to the Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honor.

The Legion of Honor is the only French distinction superior to the National Order of Merit.

Former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced on March 3 that she was opening an investigation into actions committed by Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since June 13, 2014. The announcement The investigation came less than a month after the court ruled it had jurisdiction to open an investigation. A preliminary inquiry to decide the justiciable issue lasted more than five years.

The ICC announcement follows a request from the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015, after being granted non-member observer status at the United Nations General Assembly.

Israel strongly condemned the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias, saying it is capable of investigating any suspected crimes of the Israel Defense Forces through its own legal hierarchies, and claiming that the ICC has failed of jurisdiction, since the Palestinians do not have a state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens could be arrested abroad if warrants are issued.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not visible) in Rome on June 27, 2021.
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

Former President Reuven Rivlin called the ICC decision a “morally and legally bankrupt decision”.

Lapid is due to travel to Brussels for the first time as foreign minister on Monday. He will hold a working meeting with 27 of his European counterparts. Experts expect Israel and France to work to restore relations after a difficult relationship during Benjmain Netanyahu’s tenure.


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