Nitzana Darshan-Leitner
Nitzana Darshan-LeitnerCourtesy Shurat Hadin

Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) has filed three more war crimes suit against Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

The NGO says that while the Palestinian leadership can be indicted for terror acts carried out from 2002 onward, Israel can only be indicted for deeds done from the day the PLO joined the Rome Statute - the request to join was signed last week.

The three new complaints, against PLO leaders Jibril Rajoub, Majid Faraj and Rami Hamdallah, follow the Israeli NGO's previous ground-breaking ICC complaints against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (filed in September) and against PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (filed in November) for war crimes and human rights violations.

Shurat HaDin accuses the three Palestinian civilian officials of terrorism, torture and civil rights violations which are all international law offenses and actionable under the Rome Treaty of the ICC. Today's filings are the first war crimes complaints filed against senior Palestinian officials since PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Treaty late last week.

Jibril Rajoub is Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and is second to Abbas within Fatah, a terrorist faction within the PLO. Majid Faraj is head of Palestinian General Intelligence while Rami Hamdallah was previously minister of the interior in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and now serves as prime minister.

The Shurat HaDin complaint demands the investigation and arrest of Rajoub, contending that Rajoub was a leader of Fatah at the time the terrorist group was responsible for numerous rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, during the summer's Gaza War.

Targeting civilians with deadly weapons constitutes a war crime under international law. Fatah has boasted on its Facebook page and in other social media that it – and not just Hamas or other factions – was responsible for launching rockets at Israel this summer.

As a senior Fatah leader, Rajoub should be held responsible for the actions of his subordinates, who act according to the terrorist faction's policies and goals, said Shurat Hadin in a press release, noting that the terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza left numerous Israelis dead and injured.

The complaint also alleges that Faraj and Hamdallah knowingly employ torture against ordinary Palestinians. As senior officials responsible for agencies within the Palestinian security apparatus, Faraj and Hamdallah are “liable for the widespread civil rights abuses and killings which were perpetrated by those agencies,” the NGO charged.

The complaint requests that the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC investigate Faraj and Hamdallah for torture and murder and issue warrants for their arrest.

PLO 'playing with fire'

Shurat HaDin Chairperson Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner explained that all three men can be prosecuted in the ICC for offenses dating back to 2002 because, “These PLO officials are all Jordanian citizens and Jordan has been a member of the ICC since its founding in 2002.”

The ICC is empowered to exercise its jurisdiction over all acts committed by the citizen of a member state, wherever those acts are committed, from the date the state was granted membership.

Darshan-Leitner noted that almost all of the PLO leadership possesses Jordanian citizenship. In deciding to sign the Rome Statute, she added, “The Palestinian leadership is playing with fire. The Palestine Authority can only file complaints going forward, because court jurisdiction over acts committed within its territory begins at the date that a state joins the court. Abbas can only complain about future events which occur in the presently undefined territory of the Palestinian Authority because Abbas attempted to join the ICC only now.

“The Palestinian leadership, however, may be tried by the ICC for the many terrorist acts and human rights abuses, including the Second Intifada, for which they are responsible, dating back to 2002, because they are Jordanian citizens and that is when Jordan joined the court.”

As such, she elaborated, the ICC is compelled to investigate the war crimes and international law violations perpetrated by the PLO officials who retain Jordanian citizenship immediately without waiting for the Palestinian Authority's membership application to be approved.

According to Darshan-Leitner: “Abbas and his colleagues in the Hamas terrorist organization believe that the ICC is a weapon to be used against Israel, and that the crimes of Palestinian leaders against their own people and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians will go unpunished. All PLO and Hamas officials need to understand that the ICC is a two edged sword and their years of murder, terrorism and hate will now be brought before the prosecutors for investigation."