JERUSALEM: The case of Rachel Corrie

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CPTnet
6 June 2014
JERUSALEM: The case of Rachel Corrie

 
 
  photo Ashraf Amra
  Craig and Cindy Corrie

[Note: This release was adapted for CPTnet from a longer
piece on the Palestine team’s blog
.  The Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron provided nonviolence
training for Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, another International Solidarity
Movement (ISM) activist killed by the Israeli military, when they entered the
country along with waves of other ISM activists during the early years of the
Second Intifada.]

More
than a decade after an Israeli military bulldozer crushed Rachel Corrie to
death in Rafah, Gaza, her parents Craig and Cindy Corrie found themselves in
the halls of the Supreme Court of Israel on 21 May 2014.  The Corries were appealing a verdict
handed down in 2013 by Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa District Court.

Gershon
ruled that Corrie was responsible for her own death by entering Gaza during a
time of conflict.  “While not
surprising, the verdict is yet another example of impunity prevailing over
accountability and fairness and it flies in the face of the fundamental
principle of international humanitarian law—that in a time of war, military
forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and
their property,” said Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, the Corries’ attorney at
the Haifa hearing in 2013.

This prolonged legal battle has taken on different forms over the years.  The media generally focuses on evidence
disputing whether the bulldozer operator saw Corrie during the act of
demolishing Palestinian homes on 16 Mar 2003.

Corrie’s
legal unit contests that this is not an issue of murder, but a failure to
protect civilians—covered by both Israeli and international laws.

In the court room, Corrie’s legal representation, presented a case demonstrating
that the military command unit not only knew of the legal and moral obligations
of protecting civilians during a time of war, and that at the very least, a
proper investigation had not taken place, and at worst, there was a subsequent
cover up.

Heading into the courtroom, Cindy Corrie was optimistic that they had a better
chance of having tenets of international law recognized and applied in the courtroom,
because three judges instead of one would be hearing the case.

“In its appeal, Israel took things to a whole new level, arguing in its brief
to the Supreme Court that Rachel fell outside the protections of international
humanitarian law.  Israel’s novel
argument—which goes against both international law and Israeli precedent—is
that only the “occupied population,” i.e., certain Palestinians, enjoy the
protection of international humanitarian law, and that non-Palestinian
civilians, including U.S. human rights defenders and presumably NGO workers,
can be targeted by Israeli forces,” said Katherine Gallagher a Senior Staff
Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, and a
Vice-President of the International Board of the International Federation for
Human Rights.  “If the court
accepts this argument, it would set a dangerous precedent and place human
rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory at even greater risk
than they already are.”

Bill
Van Esveld, of Human Rights Watch, stressed that the military police
investigation failed to interview key witnesses and neglected to crosscheck
statements, pointing out that military police did not visit the site in Rafah
in the southern Gaza Strip.

The military police also failed, according to Corrie’s legal team, to obtain
vital information such as radio communications for the hours before Rachel was
run over.

According to a military police investigator’s report, the head of southern
command, general Doron Almog, prevented the bulldozer driver from giving
testimony.

If the judges affirm Judge Oded Gershon’s 2013 ruling that Rachel Corrie took
her own life by trying to prevent the demolition of a home, it opens up the
doors for legitimized attacks on internationals across Israel and Palestine.

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