Dutch Supreme Court confirms immunity of former Israeli officers over a deadly 2014 Gaza airstrike

Mike Corder

AP  /  August 25, 2023

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday upheld a ruling that a Palestinian man cannot sue Israel’s former defense minister and another former senior military officer over their roles in a deadly 2014 Gaza airstrike.

The Highest Dutch court confirmed findings by judges in two lower courts that Benny Gantz and former Air Force Commander Amir Eshel are protected from civil proceedings in the Netherlands because they have “functional immunity.”

The long-running case was brought by Ismail Ziada, who lost six members of his family in the airstrike that lawyers for the two Israelis argued was part of an Israeli military operation during the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Ziada wanted the Dutch court to order Gantz and Eshel to pay damages. His legal team argued that the men didn’t have immunity because their actions amounted to war crimes.

In a written reaction, Ziada said he was “disappointed and angered” by the Supreme Court ruling and is considering appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

“The Court has once again chosen to put politics over people and blocked access to justice. Today’s ruling only deepens the injustice we have suffered,” he added.

Israel’s Justice Ministry told a lower Dutch court that an internal Israeli military investigation determined the airstrike had killed four militants hiding in the house. It said the attack was permissible under international law. Gaza’s Hamas rulers themselves have said that two militants were in the building.

Gantz — who was military chief of staff at the time of the airstrike in Gaza — and Eshel had immunity because they were carrying out Israeli government policies, Dutch courts in The Hague ruled. The Supreme Court agreed in a short written ruling issued Friday.

Gantz is now head of the centrist opposition party National Unity in the Israeli Knesset. Eshel, a former director general of the defense ministry, was named this month as a senior fellow at the hawkish Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

They could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed


Dutch Supreme Court: Israeli military immune from prosecution in Netherlands

Reuters  /  August 25, 2023

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch Supreme Court ruled on Friday that two Israeli former military commanders, including ex-Defence Minister Benny Gantz, are immune from civil prosecution in the Netherlands in a case brought over the deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli air strike.

The ruling upheld a December 2021 Dutch appeals court finding that Gantz – a career soldier turned politician – and ex-air force commander Amir Eshel, as then-high-ranking Israeli officials carrying out government policy, could not be held liable in a Dutch civil case, “irrespective of the nature and seriousness of the conduct alleged against them”.

The plaintiff, Ismail Ziada – a Dutch national of Palestinian origin – said he lost his mother, three of his brothers, his sister-in-law and his nephew in the attack, which took place in Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza in 2014 when Gantz was Israeli armed forces’ Commander-in-Chief.

In the suit, Ziada sought unspecified damages against Gantz under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules, which allows countries to prosecute serious offences committed elsewhere.

There is no further appeal possible against the Supreme Court’s decision.

Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes during the seven-week war in Gaza in 2014.

According to UN figures, about 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed in that conflict, including up to 1,500 civilians. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel also died, according to Israeli military and health officials.

Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout and Stephanie van den Berg; editing by Mark Heinrich