What is the Russell Tribunal on Palestine?
The first Russell Tribunal met in 1967 to investigate war crimes committed in Vietnam and to adjudicate them on the basis of international law.
It was set up by Bertrand Russell, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, and chaired by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Eminent intellectuals such as Lelio Basso, Julio Cortazar Lazaro Cardenas and Simone de Beauvoir took part in the tribunal’s proceedings.
Despite lacking formal judicial status, the tribunal acted as a public awareness forum, highlighting acts of injustice and impunity for violations of international law.
Decades later, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation is sponsoring the establishment of a Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
This tribunal is formed to discuss errors, omissions and complicity of third nations and international organisations causing Israel’s occupation of the territories and its impunity.
It comprises eminent people from a wide range of countries, including Israel.
The tribunal and its legitimacy does not stem from any government or political party, but its members’ prestige, professionalism and commitment to human rights.
Its international support committeefeatures over 100 diverse personalities, such as the former United Nations secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
Among others is Mohammed Bedjaoui, ex-president of the International Court of Justice, philosopher Noam Chomsky and filmmaker Ken Loach.
July 9 in 2004 saw the International Court of Justice issue an advisory opinion ruling that the wall built by Israel in occupied Palestine was illegal.
Eleven days later, the UN general assembly adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution which acknowledged the ICJ opinion.
The resolution called on UN member states to comply with their legal obligations as mentioned in the opinion.
These obliged them not to render aid or assistance for the wall’s construction or to recognise this illegal situation.
It also required them to ensure Israel’s compliance with obligations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people.
But all the states that voted for the resolution were then content to issue mere condemnations and policy statements.
This allowed Israel to continue its policy of land confiscation, creating illegal settlements in occupied territory, and violating Palestinians’ rights.
In December 2008 the Israeli army launched a war on the Gaza Strip, which was already reeling under a brutal siege.
The war rendered Israel’s contempt for international law more apparent than ever.
It highlighted the responsibility and complicity of other countries – especially the United States and the EU – in the injustice suffered by the Palestinian people.
Yet as the condemnations have not been accompanied by sanctions of any kind, Israel enjoys the tacit support of the international community.
This is the context that led to the establishment of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
It represents a civil initiative that aims to promote international law as the key factor applicable to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The tribunal also seeks to mobilize international public opinion so the UN and member states can be persuaded to act to end Israel’s impunity and build a lasting just peace.
It is not only established to focus on Israel’s manifest responsibility. The tribunal also intends to show the complicity of third-party states and international bodies whose passive stance or active support allow Israel to continue violating rights.
The RTP was established in response to a call by the late Ken Coates, chair of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Nurit Peled, the Israeli winner of the Sakharov prize for freedom of speech, and Leila Shahid, the EU general delegate for Palestine.
Responsibility for organising the Russell Tribunal on Palestine lies with .
Its members are: Pierre Galand, Stéphane Hessel, Marcel-Francis Kahn, Robert Kissous, François Maspero, Paulette Pierson-Mathy, Bernard Ravenel and Brahim Senouci.
The comprises individuals from the academic, scientific, cultural and political fields with an international reputation and no current political mandate (see annex).
The contribute to fundraising and ensure popular mobilisation and media coverage.
They may also assume responsibility for organising a session in their country or help to arrange others.
have been set up in France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and Spain and Catalonia.
Such committees are also being established in the Netherlands, Austria, Algeria, Lebanon, India and Chile.
will host the second session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in London on the 20-22 November.
The UK committee brings together individuals such as academics, lawyers, journalists, activists, writers specialised in Human Rights as well as British organisations involved in defending human rights and international law in Palestine.
Tribunal sessions are prepared with assistance from dozens of from different countries. Experts present arguments at the hearings. testify on relevant aspects of the issues addressed.
A comprising eminent personalities from the legal, academic, scientific, cultural or political fields will be present at each session.
The tribunal is the core element of the project.
Once the hearings end after the experts’ reports and witness statements, the jury will present its conclusions.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine has been planned as a decentralised initiative that will involve sessions in different cities between 2010 and 2012.
The second international session will take place in at the Law Society.
It will examine corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
The content of the London session will be prepared with help from many prominent legal experts in international law and Corporate Law.
These academics are from Britain, the US, France, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Israel and Palestine.
The will comprise eight people of internationally recognised moral or legal prestige:
the African American author and poet, who has written on race and gender and is best known for the novel The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 2003 on International Women’s Day she was arrested with others for crossing a police line during a protest outside the White House. Walker was among more than 5,000 activists – linked with the organisations Code Pink and Women for Peace – who marched from Malcolm X Park in Washington. Walker says of the incident: “I was with other women who believe that the women and children of Iraq are just as dear as the women and children in our families, and that, in fact, we are one family. And so it would have felt to me that we were going over to actually bomb ourselves.” Walker wrote about the experience in her essay “We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For.”
has been a member of the Spanish judiciary for over 40 years. In 2006 he received Spain’s National Human Rights Award. He is a member of the International Secretariat of Jurists for Amnesty and Democracy and is serving his first term as commissioner at the International Commission of Jurists. He has undertaken numerous missions for organisations to Latin America and has taught law at universities in Spain.
Heis also a socialist, republican and self-described “radical lawyer”. He has participated in court cases including accused IRA bombers, the Bloody Sunday killings, and the deaths of Jean Charles de Menezes and Diana, Princess of Wales.
territories. He has served as judge ad hoc on the International Court of Justice and as a pecial rapporteur for the former UN Commission on Human Rights and the International Law Commission. He is a serving member of the Institut de Droit International. He now practices in London, with public international law his speciality.
He was earlier minister for South African intelligence services and a member of the executive committee of the African National Congress. He also served on the central committee of the South African Communist Party.
and Irish peace activist. She co-founded the Community of Peace People with Betty Williams, an organisation which attempts to encourage a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Both women received the Nobel peace prize. Corrigan was awarded the Pacem in Terris award and is a founding member of the Nobel Woman’s Initiative.
She served six terms as a Democratic Party member of the US House of Representatives. In 2008, the Green Party nominated McKinney for the US presidency. She is the first African-American woman to have served for Georgia in the House of Representatives. Last February she was awarded the Peace through Conscience award from the Munich American Peace Committee. In 2004, during a break from office, McKinney received the Backbone Award by the Backbone Campaign “because she was willing to challenge the Bush administration and called for an investigation into 9-11”.
She is also a former coordinator of the UN development programme. Traoré coordinates the Forum pour l’autre Mali. She is associate coordinator of the International Network for Cultural Diversity and was elected to the board of the International Press Service. She is a critic of globalisation and the economic policies of the most developed nations. Traoré has voiced opposition to western countries’ subsidies for their cotton farmers which disadvantages African nations.
A former Belgian senator, he has worked for 40 years in development cooperation. A leading member of numerous Belgian and international solidarity and human rights organizations. He is a member of the organizing committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
Born in Berlin, he assumed French nationality in 1937 and was a member of the Resistance during the Second World War, joining General de Gaulle in London. He was deported to the concentration camps Buchenwald and Dora. After the war, Hessel contributed to the writing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He is a Ambassador of France and serves on the support committee for the French coordination for the decade of peace culture and non-violence. Since its creation, Hessel has supported the Non-Violence XXI foundation. He is Grand Officer of the French Légion d’Honneur and Grand Cross of the Ordre National du Mérite. Hessel was a member of the consultative National Committee for Human Rights and of the High Counsel for international cooperation. He is the honorary president of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
A lawyer in human rights, public international law, actions against the police and personal injury, Hermer has been identified in the Chambers Global rankings as one of the world’s leading public international law advocates. He has acted in many high profile cases, including representing UK citizens detained in Guantanamo Bay and victims of extraordinary rendition. Hermer was earlier appointed the first Human Rights Practitioner in Residence at Columbia University in New York, specializing on international human rights and corporate responsibility.
Yasmine Gado has practiced corporate law in New York and Washington, and served as in-house counsel for the US Export-Import Bank. Gado received her law degree with honours from George Washington University Law School and her undergraduate degree from Washington University. She now lives in Amman, devoting her time to researching and writing on issues related to Palestine and human rights, including consultancy for human rights organizations such as Badil.
A French lawyer and member of the Paris bar, he specialises in defending human rights and victims of crimes against humanity. Bourdon has acted as secretary general of the International Federation for Human Rights and founded the Sherpa Association, a French network of jurists which promotes corporate social responsibility. He has been active in legal procedures against former Serbian and Rwandan leaders, Tunisian torturers and General Augusto Pinochet.
Dr. Dalit Baum teaches gender and the global economy at the Haifa University and Beit Berl College in Israel, exposing injustice and promoting equality between communities. She has been a co-founder of Black Laundry, the Community School for Women and the Coalition of Women for Peace. Baum is the project coordinator of Who Profits from the Occupation, a group which details the economic connections and business practices of Israeli and international corporations in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Deputy General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services, Lanning has special responsibility for negotiations with the Cabinet Office in Britain on jobs, pensions and all personnel management issues. He also works on equality and international disputes. As chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, he has led delegations investigating Palestinian workers’ rights in settlements.
Coordinator of the Palestinian farmers’ union and the campaign organisation Stop the Wall. Al Taneeb worked his own land until he was evicted to make way for the wall. His campaigning has focused on labour rights, the impact of the wall and the environmental and human costs of settlement industries and their impact on Palestinian land, livelihoods and health.
Wael Natheef is the general secretary of the Jericho branch of the workers’ organisation the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. He collaborates with the Israeli workers rights’ group Kav LaOved to expose Palestinians’ exploitation in settlements.
A consultant and human rights advocate, based in Switzerland,Nieuwhof is a consultant to Palestinian and Israeli social campaigns for justice, undertaking research, evaluations and strategic planning on corporate involvement with settlements. She is of the organization Samora Advies. Nieuwhof earlier led the Dutch Refugee Council and for many years advised government programmes. She was also involved in numerous initiatives on boycott, divestment and sanctions for the Holland Committee on Southern Africa.
A Palestinian engineer who lives in Shuaffat, East Jerusalem. Ghaleb’s family land was confiscated to build the Jerusalem Light Railway.
John Dorman is an Irish architect, human rights campaigner and a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Amnesty International for over 20 years. He is a member of the national committee of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Dorman is leading a campaign on the involvement of Cement Roadstone Holdings in the construction of Israel’s “apartheid” wall.
She is a barrister at Tooks Chambers in London and specializes in criminal defense work. Karmy is now working as a legal researcher at the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq. Her cases focus on individuals and companies involved in breaches of international law in the occupied territories. Karmyis also conducting research into the legal issues on settlement products, such as labelling and supply chains.
Christophe Perrin is a member of CIMADE, a French social organisation focused on Palestinian human rights and part of the Languedoc coalition against Agrexco in France. Perrin has been instrumental in research and campaigning against the trade in settlement agricultural produce.
A writer based in New York and has taught at Yale, Columbia and Rutgers colleges, Kricorian is the campaign manager for Code Pink Women for Peace’s Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott. She is a member of PEN USA and on the board of the Armenia Tree Project
A national organiser with Code Pink Women for Peace, the US-based women-initiated peace and justice group, Abileah has visited Israel and the West Bank several times. She went there with a Code Pink delegation in the summer last year and travelled to Gaza in December. Abileah is a contributing author to 10 excellent reasons not to join the military and the anthology Sisters Singing: Incantations, Blessings, Chants, Prayers, Art and Sacred Stories by Women.
A lawyer for over three decades, Van Den Biesen graduated from the University of Amsterdam and helped pioneer legal aid. He started on civil litigation before tackling issues on war and peace and international and European law. Van Den Biesen earlier served as deputy agent for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the International Court of Justice in Bosnia’s genocide case against Serbia and Montenegro. He has also represented Djibouti in the country’s ICJ case against France.
A retired French lawyer and active member of Association France Palestine Solidarity, Coudrais has taken part in solidarity campaigns against the French occupation of Algeria and has advocated non-violent resistance to colonialism. She participated in a delegation to Palestine last year and is now active in campaigns for Palestine human rights in France.
Amir is research coordinator with the Who Profits from the Occupation research project for the Israeli organization the Coalition of Women for Peace. She is now writing her PhD dissertation on the restriction of movement within occupied Palestine. She is also an active in Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch, an Israeli group which documents and challenges human rights abuses at checkpoints across the West Bank.
Franssen is a construction engineer who coordinated INTAL, a Belgian solidarity movement on rights to overseas health, development and peace. The countries included the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Palestine, as well as the Latin American region. Franssen is now the INTAL spokesperson in Brussels and coordinator of a campaign against the bank Dexia.
Saskia Müller studied public administration at Amsterdam University’s faculty of law. She worked as a senior consultant for Coopers & Lybrand (Price Waterhouse Coopers) and later started a training institute for Dutch lawyers. She is now an adviser and coach for organisational change in the private and public sectors.
Executive director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, Hilary has campaigned for trade justice and against corporate complicity over human rights abuses in arms companies, agricultural production, manufacturing and other industries.
A senior staff Attorney at the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York and specialist in international human rights litigation, LaHood has worked on cases against US officials in challenges to extraordinary rendition (Arar v Ashcroft) and targeted killing (Al-Aulaqi v Obama). She has also taken cases for extrajudicial killing and war crimes abroad against former overseas government officials (Matar v. Dichter and Belhas v. Ya’alon) and corporations (Wiwa v. Shell and Corrie v. Caterpillar).
Reubner is the national advocacy director for the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 325 groups. The coalition works to end US support for Israel’s occupation and make Washington policy support human rights, international law and equality. He is a former Middle East analyst for the Congressional Research Service, a federal government agency briefing congress members. He holds a graduate degree in international affairs from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
An economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organisation active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour, Ever’s work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. His first book – Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation – was published by Pluto Press this year.
Coordinator of the Palestinian organisation Stop the Wall. The group seeks to empower local communities in the West Bank affected by the wall and campaigns on the impact of the occupation on Palestinian human, economic and social rights. Juma’a was a political prisoner jailed by Israel for several weeks at the end of last year for his involvement in a peaceful demonstration against the wall. His articles are widely published and he has addressed many international conferences and been a founding member of a number of Palestinian civil society organizations.
A barrister at Tooks Chambers in London and practices in human rights and civil liberties, covering both domestic and international work. The UK Legal 500 lists him as a leading junior in human rights and civil liberties. Recent cases include discrimination, national security, the right to protest and universal jurisdiction. Particular regions which interest him include the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia. Troop has a number of cases now before the European Court of Human Rights, as well as other international courts and tribunals, such as the UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Human Rights Advisory Panel for Kosovo
Hayes is a civil liberties advocate, and since 2006, has worked for the organisation Statewatch. He is director of the Statewatch European Monitoring and Documenting Centre on Justice and Home Affairs in the European Union. Hayes also works as researcher for the Transnational Institute on their militarism and globalisation programme. Widely published on civil liberties issues, he has worked as a consultant or researcher with many organizations. These include the International Federation of Journalists, American Civil Liberties Union, Open Society Justice Initiative, House of Lords, Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.