EU lawyers target IDF officers

Senior IDF officers have stopped visiting several European countries, including Britain, as a network of human rights lawyers has stepped up efforts to issue arrest warrants against officers suspected of war crimes.

Lawyers in the UK, Holland, Spain and other countries have compiled a list of IDF officers who were in command of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza 10 months ago. According to Daniel Machover of Hickman & Rose in London, his office has been instructed by Palestinians in Gaza to bring charges against officers for alleged war crimes.

“A lawyer from our office was in Gaza in January, interviewing Palestinian civilians and collecting evidence, and we have been working on their cases ever since,” he said this week.

The Goldstone Report on the fighting in Gaza highlighted a number of cases of alleged war crimes that the lawyers were already working on.

The next stage in the lawyers’ work was to identify specific IDF officers who were in direct command of the sectors in which those cases occurred, or officers who were responsible in the chain of command.

Israeli-born Mr Machover refused to disclose the names of those officers, only saying that “there are obvious candidates but also some who are less obvious. It all depends on the details in each specific case.”

A list of officers has been circulated between lawyers in European countries with “universal jurisdiction” laws, meaning that private citizens are able to ask a court to issue arrest warrants against foreign citizens who are suspected of carrying out war crimes.

A network of activists is also on the lookout in case any of the officers on this list visit their countries.

In some cases they have elicited the assistance of border agencies and police forces.

Mr Machover claims that “a small number of officers are on police watch-lists in Britain”.

Senior IDF officers who are planning to travel abroad have been referred to a special committee of lawyers from the Foreign and Justice ministries and the IDF’s legal branch. They advise the officers on how to conduct themselves abroad and in which countries they have to take special precautions.

In some cases, officers have been told not to visit certain countries, including Britain.

The Home Office would not respond to questions regarding police watch-lists. The IDF spokesman also declined to respond, saying that it was the responsibility of the Foreign and Justice Ministries.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that “we are aware of the intentions of Palestinian organisations and their supporters to attack IDF officers by legal and public methods and we are making efforts to ward them off”.

In a subsequent interview this week, Mr Machover said that former IDF Chief of Staff and current Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon should be arrested “in any European country in which he lands” for his involvement in the bombing of the home of Hamas leader Salah Shehade in 2002, in which 14 other people were killed.

Mr Yaalon said that he has refrained recently from travelling to Europe “and it isn’t a great loss for me”.

    Last updated: 5:40pm, October 29 2009