Saturday, December 10, 2005

Foreign Ministry denounces U.S. lawsuit against ex-Shin Bet chief

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent, and AP

The Foreign Ministry condemned on Friday a civil lawsuit filed in the
U.S. against former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter for the deaths of 14
Palestinian civilians who were killed in a targeted hit on a senior
Hamas operative in 2002.

"We see this as a cynical manipulation of the courts by groups with
extremist agendas," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli
Foreign Ministry.

Palestinians filed the suit against Dichter in a U.S. federal court
Thursday, seeking millions of dollars in damages.

The plaintiffs are relatives of the 14 civilians who were killed when
Israel assassinated senior Hamas operative Salah Shehadeh in July

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court - Southern District of
New York.

While Palestinians have previously filed suit in the United States
against other Israeli security officials, Dichter, unlike the
defendants in those cases, is currently in the U.S. As a result, the
plaintiffs have been able to serve him with the papers, thereby
enabling the court to hear the case.

According to the suit, Dichter shares responsibility for the deaths
both because of his role in the decision to drop a one-ton bomb on
the building where Shehadeh was staying and because he supplied the
intelligence on which that decision was based.

The plaintiffs seek to hold Dichter responsible under customary
international law and the Torture Victim Protection Act. They say the
court would have jurisdiction for human rights violations and war
crimes under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, a law that has been used
by Holocaust survivors and relatives of people killed or tortured
under despotic regimes from South America to the Philippines.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, says
the bombing occurred as part of a series of targeted attacks on
suspected terrorists that has killed 327 people and at least 174 non-
targeted bystanders, including at least 47 children, since September

The lawsuit says Dichter had "developed, implemented and escalated
the practice of targeted killings."

A spokeswoman for the Center for Constitutional Rights said Dichter
was served with the lawsuit during a benefit Wednesday in New York

The Israel Defense Forces said at the time that it decided to drop
the bomb based on intelligence indicating that Shehadeh was alone in
the building.

While the suit does not ask for a specific sum in damages - that
would be decided by the jury - the total is expected to reach
millions of dollars. The plaintiffs are seeking both compensation and
punitive damages, arguing that the bombing constituted a war crime
that should not go unpunished.

Dichter has not yet responded to the suit.

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