On April 8, 2010, PCHR released a new report, “The Principle and Practice of Universal Jurisdiction: PCHR’s Work in the occupied Palestinian territory,” advancing allegations of Israel’s “violations of international humanitarian law,” “war crimes,” and “culture of pervasive impunity.” The report expands on PCHR’s strategy of “lawfare” as a “stepping stone on the road to universal justice.”
NGOs use this strategy to harass Israeli officials and those doing business with Israel by exploiting universal jurisdiction statutes in Europe and elsewhere. However, courts in the UK, Spain, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the US all have dismissed PCHR cases as lacking merit.
As noted in the report (i.e. page 175), PCHR’s lawfare efforts have been financed, in part, by the European Commission via Oxfam Novib. Other PCHR funders include Denmark, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, Open Society Institute, and Christian Aid.
The 184-page document was prepared ahead of the “Justice: New Challenges − the Right to an Effective Remedy before an Independent Tribunal” international forum organized by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).
On April 13, 2010, Spain’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to dismiss a “war crimes” investigation against seven Israeli officials in connection to the 2002 death of the head of Hamas’ military wing, Salah Shehadah. Shehadah was responsible for the murder and injury of hundreds of Israelis, including scores of women and children. The suit filed by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in June 2008 claimed that Israel “deliberately” killed 15 bystanders in the Shehadah operation. The original PCHR suit made no mention of how Shehadah exploited Gazan civilians by hiding in a residential neighborhood or that he was planning further attacks on Israeli civilians when he was killed.
Under Spanish law at the time, NGOs could file lawsuits initiating criminal investigations against officials from foreign governments regarding events having no connection to Spain and without the knowledge or approval of Spanish officials. (The law was subsequently amended to avoid this.) But, in June 2009, the National Court ruled that Spain lacked jurisdiction because Israel was already investigating the case. PCHR appealed the decision, and was aided by NIF-funded Adalah’s General Director Hassan Jabareen, who filed an “expert opinion” on behalf of PCHR. The opinion alleged that the Israeli Supreme Court engages in “misuse of the judicial process” and “ha[s] defined all Palestinians as enemies who present an inherent threat to all citizens of Israel.”
The April 13 Spanish Supreme Court decision wholly rejected PCHR’s and Adalah’s claims, emphasizing that the Israeli investigation into the Shehade operation was “substantive and genuine”.