On March 16, 2003 an American peace activist was killed, bulldozed over, during a protest. The activist, Rachel Corrie, was protesting the demolition of the home of a civilian family in the Rafah region of Gaza. In 2005, the Corrie family brought a civil damages law suit to the Haifa District Court in Israel. On August 28, 2012 the court dismissed this suit, the judge ruling her death a “regrettable accident.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, commented on this ruling with a statement of disgust over the outcome. “Such a shocking rationale flies directly in the face of the Geneva Conventions, which impose on an occupying power an unconditional obligation to protect the civilian population.” Falk goes onto show several other examples of situations that further prove Israel’s consistent use of violence and disregard for the lives of civilians in this war zone.
The statement given by Falk is certainly one filled with frustration towards the Israeli government and military, it would seem not without justification. One of the words Falk uses often is impunity. This ruling of dismissal by the Israeli court goes along with the created sense of impunity for violent acts by the military, and acts that directly violate the Geneva Conventions. For example, Falk points out that the initial act of demolishing civilian property goes against Article 147. “Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” (I found this on the International Committee of the Red Cross website listed under Article 147, but also Article 33.) This ruling by the Israeli court is not a positive move for human rights in Gaza, and what is even more discouraging is that this is only one example, of one life that has been taken. Falk ends his statement about the ruling with an appeal to the parties of the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their promise and duty under the Conventions “’to respect and ensure respect’ for the obligations of the treaty ‘under all circumstances.’” I find myself agreeing with Richard Falk, and yet wondering what will that look like?