An appeals court ruled that Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is immune from civil prosecution in the Netherlands in a lawsuit filed over the deaths of 6 Palestinians in a 2014 IDF air strike.
By Erin Viner
Ismail Ziada brought suit against Israel’s top defense official; as well as former Air Force commander Amir Eshel, who is currently the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD).
Ziada, who is a Dutch national of Palestinian origin, claimed his mother, 3 brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza while Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gantz was serving as IDF Chief of Staff.
The plaintiff had sought unspecified damages against the 2 co-defendants under Dutch application of universal jurisdiction, which permits the prosecution of serious offenses committed in other countries.
This week’s verdict upheld a previous ruling in January 2020 that had dismissed claims against Gantz and Eshel, which found that neither of the former military leaders could be held liable in a Dutch civil case because they had been carrying out official government policy.
“A judgment on their actions will necessarily include a judgment on the actions of the state of Israel,” over which the Netherlands’ judiciary has no jurisdiction, read a summary of the decision by the Justices, who underscored that universal jurisdiction isn’t applicable to cases seeking civil damages.
Gantz reacted to the verdict by reiterating his confidence that he and Israel had been acting in accordance with international law during the 2014 conflict with the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza. “I am very happy that now other people have said the same,” he said while speaking to Reuters.
The ruling set a legal precedent “that safeguards Israel’s military commanders as a whole,” confirmed Israel’s Deputy Attorney General Roy Schondorf.
67 IDF soldiers and 6 Israeli civilians were killed during 7 weeks of fighting in Operation Protective Edge, which erupted after the abduction and murders of 3 Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel by Hamas and the firing of rocket barrages into the Jewish State by the terrorist group. The United Nations estimated that some 2,200 Palestinians in the enclave were killed in retaliatory Israeli air and ground strikes.
IDF Sergeant First Class Oron Shaul and Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin killed in action during the conflict, and their bodies were seized by Hamas for use as “bargaining chips” in any future prisoner swaps. The Islamist terror group has also been holding captive Israeli civilians Avraham “Avera” Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, both of whom reportedly suffer mental impairment and crossed into the lawless Palestinian enclave at separate times on their own accord 2014-2015.