In January, a Spanish judge agreed to pursue a complaint against military officials in Israel, including former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. The complaint arose from a 2002 air attack on Gaza City that killed 15 Palestinians, mainly children, and wounded 150. The public prosecutors have now asked that judge to shelve that complaint; the judge must issue a ruling on whether or not he will honor that request.
Spain claims universal jurisdiction over genocide, terrorism, and crimes against humanity, no matter where the crime occurs. However, this jurisdiction only applies if the crime is not the subject of a legal proceeding in the country in which it occurred. Spanish public prosecutors justified the decision to drop the case based on information that Israel had initiated its own proceedings. However, the case could be reopened if contradicting evidence about Israeli action emerges.
Israeli’s leaders criticized Spain’s decision to prosecute as politically motivated from the beginning. The decision to charge came after the most recent Israeli offensive in Gaza early this year that killed 1,300 Palestinians. Spain has recognized the political fallout of the legal action and Spanish officials have announced an intention to alter the “universal justice” rule to avoid similar political controversy in the future.
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