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Russell Tribunal investigates legal failings in Palestine and Middle East

 Street News Service 31 October 2019

Despite recent cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a solution to the amaranthine ‘Middle East Problem’ remains out of sight. It is hoped then that the Russell Tribunal on Palestine that restarts this week can help shed some light, rather than darkness, upon the legal failings of the parties involved. (535 Words) - By Staff writer

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Russel Tribunal_Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond tutu who will open proceedings at the Russell tribunal Photo: Wa-J

This week Archbishop Desmond Tutu will give the opening speech on the third instalment of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Not everyone will have heard of the Russell Tribunal but the inaugural report in 1966 caused a sensation when it held the American government to be in breach of International law due to its involvement in Vietnam.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is the latest instalment, following on from a tribunal on Chile (1973) and Iraq (2004). It is a 'citizen's tribunal' that is not affiliated with any state. Its main aims are to use principles of justice and international law as tools to help address global malfeasance committed by sovereign states.

The format is a conference lasting several days at which presentations by notable dignitaries from several countries, including Israel, are made to a jury of experts. The jury retire before delivering their response. The details of the charges levelled can be obtained form the Russell Tribunal on Palestine's homepage but, briefly, concern both the failure of States to follow international legal rulings and the invasion of Gaza by Israel in 2008

The Russell Tribunal is named after British philosopher   Bertrand Russell who came up with the idea following America's involvement in the Vietnam War.  It takes as its mission statement the comments made at the end of the Nuremburg trials of world war two, namely:

"If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us" - Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor, Nuremberg War Crimes Trials 1970

The Russell Tribune on Palestine had three "sessions" scheduled. The first two were in London and Barcelona earlier this year. Between the 5th and the 7th of November the Russell Tribunal is in South Africa.  The question for debate was: "Are Israel's practices against the Palestinian People in breach of the prohibition on Apartheid under International Law?"

SNS has statements from three Jury members Mairead Maguire, Gisèle Halimi, and Yasmin Sooka ahead of the talks in South Africa. Additionally we have contributions from:

Stéphane Hessel

Is a diplomat, ambassador, writer, concentration camp survivor, former French Resistance fighter and BCRA agent. Born German, he became a naturalised French citizen in 1939. He participated in the editing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Mervyn Bennun

A South African former lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Exeter, was active in the ANC during its period of exile in the UK.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Is a Professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an Israeli peace activist, and one of the founders of the Bereaved Families for Peace. After the death of Elhanan's 13 year-old daughter in 1997, she became an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Terry Crawford-Browne

Terry Crawford-Browne is a former international banker who during the mid 1980s became a peace activist, and is better known for his opposition to the arms acquisition package, known as the "arms deal."  He is also secretary of the South African organising committee for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.  His second book, Eye On The Diamonds is to be published early next year.

Sophia Javed

Sophia Javed is a researcher for advocacy group, the Media Review Network.

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