Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chief Justice: Ruling on IDF's targeted killings to be issued 'soon'

Chief Justice: Ruling on IDF's targeted killings to be issued 'soon': "
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Itim

Chief Justice Aharon Barak on Sunday said he intends to rule soon in two petitions against the Israel Defense Forces' targeted killings policy against Palestinian militants. Heading a High Court of Justice panel of nine justices Barak said he is 'ready' to issue a ruling after three years of deliberations.

The two petitions were submitted by the organizations The Public Committee against Torture and Yesh Gvul.

Deputy Chief Justice Mishael Cheshin reacted with impatience to the pleas of the petitioners, and required that a distinction be made between the legal status of targeted killings in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Ahead of the deliberation, State Prosecutor for Special Issues Shai Nitzan submitted a document to the court in which he alleges the policy of targeted killings of Palestinian militants by the IDF is not in violation of the law.

According to Nitzan, as a result of the end of Israeli military control in the Gaza Strip following the disengagement, Gaza is subject to the 'law of war' under which the killings are legally permissible, rather than the 'laws of occupation' or the 'laws of belligerent occupation' that governed the area previously.

The Public Committee against Torture is petitioning against the state's 'assassinations policy,' while Yesh Gvul is demanding a criminal investigation against current IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and former chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon for their part in the killing of 14 innocent Palestinians in the assassination of Hamas activist Saleh Shehadeh in July 2002.

'On September 12, 2005, the last Israel Defense Forces soldier left the Gaza Strip,' Nitzan wrote, 'as a result of which the military regime that existed in Gaza since 1967 was ended. This change means that from that date the laws of belligerent occupation no longer apply to the Gaza Strip. The state's position was and still is that the laws applying to targeted killings in a situation of armed conflict are those of war and not those of belligerent occupation.'

The State Prosecutor's Office insists that the issue of targeted killings cannot be adjudicated because 'the petition relates to Israeli military activity as part of its battling against terror that is carried out in the framework of armed struggle.'

The petition was first submitted in 2002 but was frozen last summer after Israeli suspended its killings policy. In September the justices decided to combine the two petitions, and after the assassinations began again a couple of weeks ago, they decided to discuss them both."

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