On April 9, 2015, Al-Mezan, a non-governmental organization (NGO) linked to the PFLP, hosted a conference in Gaza about the opportunities for prosecuting Israelis presented by Palestinian ascendancy to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The event featured representatives from Palestinian terrorist organizations – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) –as well as officials from leading NGOs and the UN.
This event – sponsored by the UN Development Programme (UNDP)1 – highlights the alliance and confluence of interests between terrorist actors and supposed “human rights defenders” in exploiting the ICC for anti-Israel agendas.
Since 2000, Palestinian NGOs have sought to use foreign and international legal bodies as a means of taking action against Israel and prominent Israeli officials. These efforts, among others, include seeking arrest warrants from courts to arrest Israeli officials travelling to Europe. (For more information on these campaigns, see NGO Monitor’s “Lawfare, International Law, and Human Rights,” and “NGO ‘Lawfare’: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.”)
A central component of this political warfare campaign is to heavily lobby the ICC to open a formal investigation into Israel. The NGOs primarily responsible for this campaign are tied to terrorist organizations, including the PFLP. (For more information, see NGO Monitor’s “International Criminal Court (ICC) and NGOs” and “Terror-linked and boycott promoting NGOs behind potential ICC investigation.”)
Participants with ties to terrorist organizations
According to Al-Mezan, the conference dedicated a panel to “The Vision of the Palestinian Factions,” featuring Hamas’ Khalil Al-Hayya, Islamic Jihad’s Khaled Al-Batsh, and the PFLP’s Saleh Nasser. Al-Mezan’s description of the session included these organizational affiliations.
- According to Al-Hayya, the “Hamas movement took the initiative to welcome joining the court, and is participating in the National Committee for the International Criminal Court.”
- Al-Batsh added that Islamic Jihad hopes “that the occupation leaders will be tried [by the ICC].”
- Referencing the principle of “double jeopardy,” the PFLP representative raised the idea of trying Palestinians in Gaza for launching rockets at Israel and using human shields, in order to protect them from ICC prosecution.
A separate panel was moderated by Al-Mezan Board Member Nafiz Al-Madhoun. Madhoun serves as Director General of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Legislative Council. 2
A number of Arabic-language sources have referred to Al-Madhoun as a Hamas leader, or the head of Hamas’ parliamentary bloc in Gaza. Palestinian government sources have also noted his co-hosting of a September 2011 event for Gaza security personnel with Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
Participation by NGO officials
Multiple representatives from PFLP-linked NGOs attended the conference, including Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)3 and Al-Dameer.4 (For these organizations’ ties to the PFLP, see NGO Monitor’s “Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group” and “Al-Dameer’s Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.”)
Al-Haq Director Shawan Jabarin participated remotely in Al-Madhoun’s panel. Jabarin has been linked to the PFLP, as affirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2007, 2008 and 2009 rulings. In May 2019, he appeared at a PFLP-sponsored event alongside several other NGO officials.
Jamil Sarhan of the Gaza-based Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) also spoke at the conference. Sarhan, now serving as Al-Mezan’s treasurer,5 was cited by Palestinian media reports in 2007 and 2009 as being a member of the PFLP central committee.
Notably, Adalah Director General Hassan Jabareen also took part remotely. Advancing the notion that the ICC must prosecute Israelis because of a lack of will on the part of the Israeli judiciary, Jabareen claimed, “The Israeli courts rejected all the cases that were submitted to open a criminal investigation into the alleged war crimes committed by the army, and the bottom line is that Israeli law does not give any legal treatment to the Palestinians.”
UNDP sponsorship and participation
According to Al-Mezan’s 2015 annual report, it received funding from UNDP to carry out a series of activities, including holding a “Conference on the International Criminal Court in Gaza” and publishing “awareness and promotion materials on accountability and the ICC.”
UNDP’s Ibrahim Abu Shamallah participated in the conference’s opening panel, asserting that “The decision to join the ICC is important and strengthens the trend to use the mechanisms and tools of international justice in the framework of supporting the Palestinian people’s access to justice and pushing for a real peace that achieves Palestinian national hopes. Justice is needed for Palestine and the Palestinian people more than ever, and the international community cannot continue to bury their heads in the sand.”
- Other funders of Al Mezan at the time included the European Commission, the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Secratariat (Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland), NRC (Norway), Medico International (Germany), Heinrich Boll (Germany), Diakonia (Sweden), and Oxfam GB (UK).
- From at least 2010, according to the Hamas Refugee Committee, until 2020, according to the online magazine, Felesteen Online.
- Hamdi Shaqoura, then Deputy Director of PCHR.
- Khallel Abu Shamalah, head of Al-Dameer at the time of the conference.
- Al-Mezan’s website lists Sarhan as a member of the board since at least June 2015