Amnesty International made waves last Tuesday with its report detailing how Hamas executed citizens in Gaza last summer in war crimes at the close of Operation Protective Edge, but just what impact will the development have on the legal struggle to bring the terrorist organization to justice?
To find out Arutz Sheva spoke with attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Director of the legal NGO Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) which is currently in the midst of a lawsuit against Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and other terrorist leaders at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Darshan-Leitner said that last September her organization filed a criminal complaint on all the cases of Hamas executing citizens in Gaza. The new report "bolsters the allegations that we made concerning Mashaal and other Hamas officials over the extra judicial executions of their fellow Palestinians last summer."
She noted that Amnesty International submitted their report to the ICC meaning the court will be hard pressed to ignore the war crimes, and that her group is pressuring the ICC and UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) "to actually open the investigation" on the case, calling the court's clerk frequently.
"So far they are stonewalling on this open and shut case of Palestinian on Palestinian war crimes," the attorney revealed. "If the chief prosecutor simply rejects an investigation of these torture and murders which are so well documented, and to which Hamas openly boasted about, it will further expose what a sham the ICC truly is."
Regarding future moves, Darshan-Leitner said that aside from the ICC cases "we are looking into whether civil suits can now be brought against different Palestinian leaders over these blatant murders. If we can find families that are interested in suing Mashaal and the Hamas leadership then we can pursue civil lawsuits. We are also pressing the UNHRC to investigate these heinous crimes against humanity."
Shurat HaDin has proven civil cases can be used to great effect against terrorist organizations, such as when it won a groundbreaking $218 million suit against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in February for their terror activities in the Second Intifada.
"Abbas only controls a few blocks in Ramallah"
The Hamas executions are particularly noteworthy given that a large number of those murdered by the terrorist group were said to be political rivals, and prime among them members of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.
"The PLO is well aware that Hamas massacred its members as well as numerous civilians last summer in Gaza," said Darshan-Leitner. "I think Abbas – who refuses to hold elections in the PA – understands he has no real legitimacy and therefore he has to continue in the 'unity government' with the Islamic terrorist groups in Gaza."
"The fact that the PLO doesn't massacre Hamas members in the West Bank in retaliation shows how weak and pathetic Fatah has become," she emphasized. "If he (Abbas – ed.) didn't keep paying Hamas bribe money, Hamas would overthrow the West Bank too."
Hamas has already shown its ability to oust Fatah, such as when it violently pushed the PA out of Gaza in seizing control of the region in 2007 after winning overwhelmingly in elections. It also launched a massive coup against Abbas in Judea and Samaria last August that was foiled by Israel.
Speaking about what this power balance means regarding the "peace process," she remarked, "this is why it’s ridiculous for the US and the EU to keep insisting that Israel negotiate with Abbas – the PLO literally controls solely a few blocks in Ramallah and everything else is being taken over by the Jihadis."
Who will arrest Hamas?
Shurat HaDin has been leading the "lawfare" legal battle against Hamas, while the Israeli government has been taking a very different tack.
"Israel's position is to ignore the ICC and the UN and refuse to cooperate with their investigations of the IDF and the terrorist groups," explained the lawyer. "I am sure both international bodies have our complaints and Amnesty’s reports so there is really no need for Israel to be directly involved. Israel will not contact them nor provide them any legitimacy."
While the state is keeping its distance, Darshan-Leitner noted her NGO is in a prime position "to continue to press both of these entities and ensure that they focus their attention on the war crimes committed by the Palestinians."
However, even with all the evidence there are limitations to what the lawsuits can accomplish in terms of bringing the terrorists to justice.
"Even after the Palestinians are indicted for these atrocities against their own civilians there is no one responsible in Gaza nor the PA who would ever arrest or prosecute the perpetrators," said the Shurat HaDin Director.
"It's an open joke like when Hamas says this week it has arrested Islamic Jihad rocket crews. No reasonable person can believe that," she concluded, referring to Hamas's announcement after last Tuesday's rocket attack.