Netanyahu still faces arrest in Spain

  20 November 2015    Read: 516
Netanyahu still faces arrest in Spain
Spanish judge stands firm on potential legal case against Israeli PM over 2010 Mavi Marmara deaths
A Spanish judge is standing firm on his decision to reopen a legal case against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others linked to the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid if any of them ever step foot in Spain.

Anadolu Agency has gained access to a decree from Spanish judge, Jose de la Mata, which, despite a request from the district attorney’s office to cancel the order, maintains the position that could lead to the arrest of Netanyahu or other Israeli officials if they enter Spain.

De la Mata’s order is to add seven names to the police database and have police or national security notify him if any of them are in, or trying to enter, Spain.

Once notified, the judge could re-open the case into the Freedom Flotilla which would allow the Spanish National High Court to notify, charge and even arrest the accused.

Six civilian ships in the Freedom Flotilla were raided in international waters by Israeli forces on May 31, 2010, as the craft tried to break a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Nine Turkish activists were killed and 30 other people were hurt, including one who died nearly four years after being critically injured. Three Spanish citizens were also on board.

The names in De La Mata’s order consist of those who made up the so-called “Forum of Seven” -- a committee of Israeli ministers who made key decisions about security issues during the time.

That includes Netanyahu, ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, ex-defense minister Ehud Barak, ex-deputy prime ministers Moshe Ya`alon (who is current defense minister) and Eli Yishai, former state minister Benny Begin and former Israeli naval commander Eliezer Marom.

“It is confirmed that the requirements exist to activate Spanish jurisdiction in this crime, for example the presence of the accused in Spanish territory,” the document, issued Nov. 17, says. The appeal by the district attorney’s office was filed Nov. 13.

The Israeli government is outraged by the decision.

"We consider it to be a provocation. We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it canceled. We hope it will be over soon," Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Nov. 14, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Spain has famously paved the way in prosecuting international crimes when Baltasar Garzon, a judge who also sat in the Spanish National High Court, issued an arrest warrant for Chile’s former military leader Augusto Pinochet -- accused of overseeing a multitude of human rights violations.

Although General Pinochet never faced trial, because of the judge applying universal jurisdiction laws, Pinochet was arrested on human rights charges in London 1998 and held for over a year. The case was ground-breaking.

However, over recent years, Spanish legal reforms have greatly reduced the power of judges to apply the universal jurisdiction principle for charges such as these.

In 2014, the governing People’s Party (PP) passed a reform that reduced Spanish jurisdiction. This was partly due to political pressure from China after the National High Court brought forward a case related to alleged genocide in Tibet.

U.S. politicians and military officials were also under investigation for the 2003 bombing of the Palestine Hotel in Bagdad and for alleged abuses in the American-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In 2009, the rules for jurisdiction were also clipped shortly after the National High Court charged Israeli military officials and ex-defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer with crimes against humanity. The charges related to the 2002 bombing of Al-Daraj in Gaza, where an Israeli airstrike in a densely populated area killed numerous civilians.

However, earlier this week Pedro Sanchez, leader of Spain’s Socialist opposition told the media he would repeal the most recent reforms if his party gains power in December’s general election.

The promise, he said, comes with the hope for Spain “to again be the reference in defense of human rights”.

Conversely, Ignacio Prieto, an activist with the pro-Palestinian Rumbo a Gaza NGO, hopes that these charges against Israeli officials will not further limit Spanish power.

“We are happy now with the decision but hope that political pressure from Israel won’t pressure the government to reduce Spanish power even further,” Prieto told Anadolu Agency.

“This current government is very close to Israel and Zionist leaders,” Prieto claims.

Freedom Flotilla

The Mavi Marmara raid heightened tensions between Israel and Turkey, which recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

Laura Arau, a Spanish journalist and activist who witnessed the 2010 attack, told Anadolu Agency:

“After the floor changed from green to red, I saw one of the other most violent scenes of my life and that was the treatment different between those who looked Western compared to those who looked Arabic.”

She’s extremely happy with the de la Mata`s decision and will “continue fighting for justice, both in Spain and internationally”.

A 2010 UN report was critical of Israeli forces’ actions: “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.”

“Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted a grave violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law,” it added.

The UN report considered that during the attack, willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment and willful causing of “great suffering” or serious injury to body or health took place.

Israel has maintained a tight blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Palestinian group Hamas took over control of the territory.

After hearing false reports that South Africa also issued arrest warrants for Israeli officials for the Freedom Flotilla attacks, Israel official Emmanuel Nahshon called the reported moves “ugly and provocative”, according to the Jerusalem Post report earlier this week.

“There is a coalition committed to an anti-Israel agenda,” whose members “cynically abuse [South Africa’s] justice system in order to advance a hostile agenda against Israel,” said Nahshon before a South African police spokesman confirmed that the story was a rumor and the country did not issue warrants.

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