18/12/2009

Restoring the primacy of International law

Wednesday the “Halles de Schaerbeek” in Brussels hosted a preparatory day to the first session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. It was launched on previous March and will hold its first session in Barcelona at the beginning of next March. This first public meeting was rewarded by a full house come to listen to the presentations of academics, lawyers and representatives of associations on the complicity and failures of the European Union, through which allow the State of Israel to violate international law with impunity.

The intervention of the former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt was particularly noticeable. Regretting the lack of coherence of the EU in its relations with Israel, he applauded the recent conclusions of the European Council of Ministers, but noted, however, that no concrete steps have been provided if Israel did not comply. The EU often finds it difficult to suit the action to the word, and despite many tools at its disposal, continues to play a minor role, mainly economic and financial, on the Middle East arena.

The Russell Tribunal is therefore a « no!  » of protest from the citizens against the inaction of the international community : no the violation of international law will not go unpunished, no we will not forget the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people (see UN website devoted to the question of Palestine), no we will not allow our governments to be complicit in these violations. Lord Bertrand Russell defined the first goal of the Russell Tribunal on Vietnam (1966) as to « prevent the crime of silence. » The court is therefore based on two aspects: the rigorous legal expert reports and testimony on the one hand, the scale media of a court opinion on the other.

In terms of media resonance, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine is still at a early stage. It is nevertheless possible to find a mention of this first public event in the two major Belgian and French speaking dailies : La Libre Belgique and Le Soir. Even more surprising, the Belgian free daily Metro devoted this morning a full page to an interview with Stéphane Hessel who participates at the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and who now sponsors the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The Russell Tribunal presents itself as a citizen initiative meant to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the basis for the settlement of the Israeli Palestinian question and which recalls that there can be no peace without justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But beyond this conflict, as highlighted by Gianni Tognoni of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (Bologna, Italy), the Russell Tribunal for Palestine is also a « critical test for a minimum credibility of international law » and it concerns then our common future.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée

To learn more about the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, visit:http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.org/