On July 20th, 2014 the Ziada family home in the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza was bombed by Israeli military forces. It was a targeted attack that reduced the three storey building instantly to rubble and left everyone inside it fatally wounded. Amongst the dead lay Ismail Ziada’s mother, three brothers, his sister-in-law, a 12-year-old nephew and a visiting friend.
Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) during “Operation Protective Edge”. The vast majority were non-combatants and over a quarter of all people killed in the operation were children under eighteen years of age.
In the fall of that same year Ismail Ziada, a Dutch citizen resident in the Netherlands, contacted Liesbeth Zegveld, a prominent lawyer, specializing in support for victims of war crimes and human rights violations. Ziada was committed to holding those responsible for the killing of his family accountable.
Saad Ziada standing in the ruins of the family home where six family members were killed
Papers were served on both the Chief of General Staff of the IDF at the time of the bombing, Benny Gantz and the Commander of the IDF Air Force, Amir Eshel. The working assumption was that neither officer would respond to the writ and the court proceedings would take place in absentia. However, just before the 3 month time period for submission of a response expired, both Israeli military officers appointed a lawyer to represent them. In November 2018, they finally submitted a response.
The original suggestion of initiating a criminal case was soon put to one side as previous experience indicated that it was highly unlikely that the public prosecutor would initiate criminal proceedings. However, Zegveld pointed out that the Netherlands upholds a system of universal jurisdiction in civil proceedings for Dutch citizens who are unable to gain access to justice elsewhere.
While the Ziada writ was focused on the fact that the bombing of the family home was illegal and a war crime according to international law, the response of the defendants focused exclusively on their alleged right to immunity and the Dutch court’s alleged lack of jurisdiction based on the argument that Ismail Ziada would have access to justice in Israel.
The recent Israeli court ruling against Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who filed a compensation suit against the Israeli state over the killing of three of his daughters in IDF shelling in 2009 is proof, if proof were needed, that this is most certainly not the case.
The first step in the quest for justice was the court hearing in the Hague in September 2019. The panel of judges will now consider the case before making a public pronouncement on January 29th 2020. Information relating to the court hearing is available here and includes Ismail Ziada's opening statement. Should the outcome be positive for the family it is expected the Israeli military defendants will pursue the case up to the Dutch Supreme Court which can take several years and significant financial Resources.
The Ziada family has been using their own personal funds and some generous contributions from friends and supporters to pursue their case on behalf of all the victims of Israeli war crimes. If justice is to be gained for the Palestinian victims, the case needs our moral and financial support. It is important to stress that the case is not being taken for personal gain. Should the case be successful, any compensation received will be dedicated to a specially established fund for Palestinian war crime victims in general and children in particular.
Funding is essential
Every donation large or small helps the Ziada family struggle for justice for the Palestinian people. Please contribute what you can and encourage others to do the same. All money donated will be transferred to the Nuhanovic Foundation , a registered non-profit charity which assists war victims who seek access to justice to obtain a remedy in the form of reparation, restitution or compensation. 100% of funds raised will go towards the legal fees incurred in the litigation of the case.
This GoFundMe page has been established by the Palestine Justice Campaign which is an international single-issue group of concerned citizens, trade unionists and human rights workers who volunteer to assist the Ziada family in their pursuit for justice. If you prefer to contribute directly to the bank account which is managed by the Nuhanovic Foundation. Please visit our website here .