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Peoples court condemns Israel for war crimes in Lebanon
Published Feb 28, 2008 9:29 PM
A four-member jury of distinguished legal officials, after hearing and
considering two days of intense, moving and precise testimony at the
International Associations Center in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 24 found the
Israeli state guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in its
2006 war on Lebanon.
Witness holds part of U.S.-made
rocket that killed some of his family.
WW photos: John Catalinotto
Some 250 people filling the center stood as one to applaud as Judge Adolfo
Abascal from Cuba finished reading the decision. Those in the courtroom, many
from Lebanon or from the Lebanese diaspora, already knew or had heard enough to
make up their minds. But a formal decision based on a body of evidence can more
effectively counter reactionary imperialist propaganda in the corporate
The other three judges were Judge Lilia Solano from Colombia, a professor at
the National University of Bogotá; Rajindar Sachar, retired chief justice
of the High Court of Delhi, India; and Professor Claudio Moffa of the
University of Teramo, Italy. A fifth member of the panel, judge of the Court of
Appeal Hisham Bastawisi of Egypt, was prevented from participating by the
The organizers counted on the media coverage of the hearing—which was
broadcast throughout the Arab world and in Latin America in whole or in
part—to bring a convincing statement of Israeli guilt of serious war
crimes to their audiences throughout the world. In the imperialist countries it
will be up to progressive media and organizations in solidarity with the
liberation struggles to spread the news of the tribunal.
There was representative support from organizations in Europe and the U.S.,
including present and former European Union parliamentary members Louisa
Morgantini from Italy and Miguel Urbano Rodrigues from Portugal, and former MP
Ángeles Maestro from Spain. Human rights, anti-war and anti-imperialist
organizations sent representatives to watch, participate and report on the
In the introductory session, leading co-coordinator Leila Ghanem (Raoul Jennar
was the other) introduced Judge Solana, who presided over the judges’
panel. Solana explained the procedure for the tribunal.
John Catalinotto of the International Action Center (IAC) in the United States,
Dr. Paola Manduca of the Permanent People’s Tribunal and Prof. Jean
Bricmont of the BRussells Tribunal gave political statements on the issues
before the court. Catalinotto focused on U.S. complicity in the war crimes
through providing the Israeli offensive with coordinated military aid and
diplomatic support throughout the invasion.
Israelis expose their own crimes
What made the 2006 war on Lebanon different from the other U.S.-Israeli
aggressions in the region was that the Israeli offensive collapsed. The
Lebanese resistance—2,000 fighters led by Hezbollah but joined by other
patriotic forces like the Communist Party—inflicted heavy casualties on
the most powerful army in the region. Instead of wiping out the popular armed
struggle, the Israelis were driven out.
Judges Solano, Sachar
This defeat forced the Tel Aviv regime to re-examine and investigate its own
war strategy. Prosecuting Attorney Dr. Issam Naaman pointed this out as he
introduced the tribunal case. After the witnesses, he said, the Winograd Report
by an Israeli government-appointed committee will “fill in any remaining
gaps” in the case.
That the report admits that Israel had planned the aggression months before it
took place absolves the Lebanese resistance—which had been charged with
provoking the war by capturing two Israeli soldiers.
The others on the prosecution team were Dr. Hassan Jouni and Maitre Albert
Farhat, also from Lebanon, and Dr. Hugo Ruiz Díaz Balbuena from
Although the Lebanese successfully fought back, this did not prevent the
Israeli military from inflicting horrible casualties on the Lebanese civilian
population. The prosecutors introduced witnesses who gave evidence of massacres
against civilian targets and the systematic destruction of towns and villages
and popular housing projects south of Beirut.
Through expert witnesses, the prosecutors also showed that Israel used
prohibited weapons, such as uranium-cased bunker busters and thermobaric
weapons, and those prohibited against civilians, such as cluster bombs. The
Israeli military was apparently testing new weapons on the Lebanese they killed
and maimed. More than 1,200 people in Lebanon were killed, the great majority
of them civilians, including many children.
First-hand testimony of war crimes
Eyewitnesses were more than observers of the war. They had lost multiple family
members, been involved in ambulance driving, been responsible for their town or
village. The Lebanese organizations fought heroically, but the Israeli war
machine, armed by Washington, rained death on civilians who had the misfortune
of being in the south of Lebanon that summer.
Civil defense worker Maher Saloum from Baalbek city provided a moving
PowerPoint demonstration of the casualties inflicted on Lebanese children and
other noncombatants. His co-workers, while clearly driving ambulances, were
equally targeted by Israeli rockets. While not physically wounded, this hero
had suffered what in the U.S. would be called post-traumatic stress disorder as
he risked his life every day to try to save his compatriots.
One witness held up a piece of the U.S.-made rocket that crashed into the home
his family was trying to take cover in as they fled north.
The judges asked each witness if there were any military targets, any Hezbollah
fighters, in the vicinity of the bomb or rocket strikes. The answer was always,
Dr. Ali Mustafa, mayor of one of the towns in Baalbek in the south, 15 miles
from the border with Israel, told of the “250 martyrs” from his
district. “I’m asking the people of the world,” he said,
“What do they [the Israelis] want from us and our children? We had 423
homes destroyed, but I don’t think they will beat us.
“They tried to drive a wedge between the people and the resistance, but
we remained together. The enemy attack failed. We will fight them all our lives
Weapons, environment, economy
After the reports of the deaths, it may not have seemed necessary to show the
use of illegal weapons, to decry the long-lasting assault on the environment or
to demonstrate the damage in tens of billions of dollars to the Lebanese
economy. The “legal” weapons are also murderous in the hands of an
arrogant imperialist army. But in a trial, the prosecutors need to demonstrate
all the crimes under discussion.
It was hard to look at the photos of the Lebanese people wounded or killed by
either old or new weapons. But phenomena like internal bleeding without entry
or exit wounds and no evidence of shrapnel, deep burning on one side of the
body and none on the other, and high levels of radiation showed that Israel was
testing new weapons, most of them manufactured in the United States.
Dr. Rania Masri, who had been an anti-war activist in Raleigh, N.C., for many
years before moving to Beirut, gave an excellent and concise presentation of
the lasting damage to the environment from the Israeli attack. The most
devastating single blow was to an oil storage tank serving an electric power
plant, causing an enormous spill that has destroyed the beaches and the aquatic
environment all the way from the south of Lebanon to Syria.
Dr. Kamal Hamdan, a macroeconomist, apologized if his “cold view”
of the economic impact detracted from the suffering of the Lebanese. He
explained that besides the $2.8 billion in direct losses, 60 percent of it in
housing, much of it in the popular suburbs south of Beirut, there are other
even greater losses. Higher unemployment and inflation rates have impoverished
a greater proportion of the Lebanese population.
Almost as an aside, Dr. Hamdan pointed out that U.S. imperialist aggression in
the entire West Asian region was aimed not only at guaranteeing access to
energy sources but also to give Washington the ability to intimidate both China
and the U.S.’s rival imperialists in Europe and Japan by controlling the
Dr. Díaz Balbuena, representing the American Association of Jurists before
the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, presented the legal rules of
the case, of which only a small part of the testimony has been summarized
Introducing the verdict, Justice Lilia Solana made sure to also inculpate the
United States for its complicity in the war. The final decision was that the
judges “declare the Israeli authorities in charge of the 2006 war against
Lebanon guilty of the following international crimes:
1. war crimes
2. crimes against humanity
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