Monday, December 4, 2023

Palestinians sue Biden for failing to prevent Israeli genocide in Gaza

A group of Palestinians living in the US and the occupied Palestinian territories filed a lawsuit against the administration of US President Joe Biden, seeking to halt further diplomatic and military support to Israel. The lawsuit accuses Washington of failing to "prevent an unfolding genocide" against the Palestinian people amid Israel's assault on Gaza.

The lawsuit filed by Palestinians as well as Palestinian human rights organisations, Al-Haq and Defense for Children International, seeks to require the US to fulfil its obligations under international law to prevent what many legal experts say is a potential genocide against Palestinians being committed by Israel.

“This unfolding genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza has so far been made possible because of the unconditional support given by … President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, constituting a breach of US responsibilities under customary international law, as codified in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” the lawsuit read.

Legal experts, UN officials and more than 800 scholars have warned that Israel is potentially committing genocide against Palestinians. When it comes to the issue of genocide, many experts refer to the definition outlined in Article II of the UN’s Genocide Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

This definition, widely accepted by more than 130 countries including the US, Germany, France, and the UK, states that genocide means acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

The lawsuit also includes declarations from leading genocide experts who have given the same warning.

“I conclude that there is a serious risk of genocide committed against the Palestinian population of Gaza and that the United States of America is in breach of its obligation … to use its position of influence with the Government of Israel and to take the best measures within its power to prevent the crime taking place,” William Schabas, a leading legal expert on genocide, said in a statement.

The legal filing was submitted in the District Court for Northern California and was filed against US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin. Given that the lawsuit involves an accusation of the US violating an international treaty – in this case, the Genocide Convention – the district court holds jurisdiction over the matter.

It was filed on behalf of the Palestinian clients by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the law firm, Van Der Hout, LLP.

“For the last five weeks, President Biden and Secretaries Blinken and Austin have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with an Israeli government that has made clear its intention to destroy the Palestinian population in Gaza,” stated Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney at CCR and one of the lawyers who brought the case forward.

“The United States has a clear and binding obligation to prevent, not further, genocide. They have failed in meeting their legal and moral duty to use their considerable power to end this horror. They must do so.”

The Pentagon announced it does not comment on pending litigation, and the White House and State Department did not immediately respond to Middle East Eye’s request for comment.

The lawsuit is the latest legal battle launched in the US after war broke out in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on 7 October, when Hamas and armed Palestinian groups launched an attack on Israel that killed 1,200 Israelis, according to the official tally.

Meanwhile, Israel has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians so far in its aerial bombing campaign and ground assault, with 70 percent of them being women and children.

Israeli forces have targeted hospitals, residential neighbourhoods, ambulances, mosques, and other civilian infrastructure. Entire neighbourhoods in the besieged enclave have been completely levelled as Israel’s military advances in northern Gaza.

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