Silver Lining

Food for thought

President of International War Crimes Tribunal may have worked to shield Israelis from prosecution

by Alison Weir, source

The New York Times reports that an Israeli diplomat turned U.S. citizen – and now president of the war crimes tribunal at the Hague – has been pressuring the court to acquit officials accused of war crimes.

The Times says that the Israeli-American judge, Theodor Meron, “… has led a push for raising the bar for conviction in such cases, prosecutors say, to the point where a conviction has become nearly impossible.”

Some analysts feel that Meron’s motivation may be to protect Israeli political and military leaders from prosecutions that could place them in legal jeopardy.

International attorney and analyst John Whitbeck comments that both Israel and the United States are “world leaders in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace,” and that their officials “would prefer to see the bar for criminal convictions raised to a level which offers them continued impunity.”

However, Whitbeck points out that the risk to American leaders is relatively insignificant, since the U.S. government would be able to use its UN Security Council veto to protect its leaders.

The situation for Israeli officials, on the other hand, is quite different. According to Whitbeck: “The threat of accountability is potentially imminent and urgent for Israel and Israelis.”

Before immigrating to the U.S., Meron was a member of the Israeli Foreign Service and served as Israeli Ambassador to Canada and to the United Nations in Geneva. He also served as Legal Counsel to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 1967 Meron wrote a secret memorandum of law to Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol stating that creating Israeli settlements on occupied territory would be a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, contrary to international law and, hence, a war crime.

The Israeli government ignored this memo (which neither the government nor Meron made public), and have been creating illegal settlements ever since. In January a UN panel stated that the settlements “contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

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