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Dutch court will not prosecute Israeli defense minister for war crimes

THE HAGUE — A Dutch appeals court ruled Tuesday that Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and one other senior military official will not be prosecuted in a case that alleged war crimes under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules, ratifying an earlier lower court ruling. 

The case, filed first as a civil suit by Dutch Palestinian Ismail Ziada, who blamed Gantz for the deaths of six of his relatives in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in 2014, was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020. It ruled the principles of universal jurisdiction — a principle allowing countries to prosecute serious offenses like war crimes and crimes against humanity — could not be applied to civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing universal jurisdiction should be applied in such cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law, and requested to overturn the decision that effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

On Tuesday, the court ruled it would not suspend the Israeli officials’ immunity on the basis of crimes against humanity or war crimes in civil cases, ratifying the earlier civil ruling.

Gantz served as Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015.

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