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Russell Tribunal reconvenes on Gaza

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In the wake of allegations of war crimes committed by the Israeli military during its brutal campaign on the Gaza Strip, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) are set to reconvene for a session on the issue within the coming weeks. More than 2000 Gazans, the majority of which are innocent civilians, have been killed since the campaign began on the 8th July.

The Russell Tribunal was originally initiated in 1950, to investigate war crimes committed during the Vietnam war. A wing of the body was formed in 2009, aimed solely at focusing on the Israel-Palestine conflict. A number of sessions have been held on the issue since its inception, the most recent of which concluded in December 2013, in Brussels, Belgium.

According to RToP coordinator, Frank Barat, the reconvening of the tribunal was an “extraordinary step”, motivated by Israel’s continuous assault on Gaza. He described the situation in the region as a “massacre” by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

With the session set to convene within the next four weeks, Barat said they were working on an intense schedule to fit nine months of organising into that short period of time. Despite this, he noted the response to the tribunal had so far been amazing.

The session is expected to attract a number of high profile people who will be issuing testimonies in front of the tribunal. They including Prof. John Dugard and Richard A.Falk, both UN envoys to Palestine, musician and Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, and former South African minister Ronnie Kasrils, amongst others.

There will also be a number of key eye witnesses to the situation in Gaza, including US journalist Max Blumenthal, Gaza based surgeon Dr Mads Gilbert, and UN chief of field in Gaza, Pernille Ironside.

“We really focused on witnesses from the ground, and people that were, or are still in Gaza. They are eye witnesses to potential war crimes,” said Barat.

Despite the fact that the RtoP has no legal power to take action against those found guilty of war crimes, Barat noted that resolutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC), International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the UN Security Council, were never respected anyway.

“I think the question is not whether we have legal power, the question is rather the moral high ground,” he said.

The upcoming session is once again set to take place in Brussels and the location was largely motivated by the city being the headquarters of the European Union (EU) Commission.

“It will enable us on the day after the session, to go and meet various members of the EU parliament and EU commission. The EU has been totally useless and hopeless during this massacre, and we need to put pressure on them as the European citizens,” he said.

And despite the seemingly pro-Israel view taken by Western media towards the conflict, Barat was not concerned the tribunal may not attract the desired publicity.

“In Brussels it is different, and the Belgian media will definitely cover this. We know them and we’ve had interactions with them in past. In terms of the European media, they are all here in Brussels. We are going to push them very hard to attend and cover this,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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