Netanyahu faces arrest on SA entry

2012-11-17 15:35

NPA has decided to investigate Israeli prime minister for crimes committed against local journalist

If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to enter South Africa, he could face arrest for “serious crimes” committed under international law.

This comes as part of a decision made by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate Netanyahu, along with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and four Israeli Defence Forces commanders for crimes committed against Gadija Davids, a South African journalist aboard the besieged Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, in 2010.

The Mavi Marmara was en route to deliver aid supplies to Gaza, which would entail breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza, when it was attacked by Israeli soldiers.

Nine Turkish activists were killed and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded. The Israeli government maintains that the soldiers acted in self-defence.

On Tuesday, Davids, who had lodged a complaint with the SA Police Service in January 2011, was informed by the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, a division of the NPA, that they had decided to probe the matter.

“Davids was stripped of her passport and possessions, and tied up. She spent time in an Israeli jail and she suffered the trauma of seeing activists killed on the ship. These are all classified as serious crimes under different categories of the Rome Statute,” Davids’ attorney, Ziyaad Patel, told City Press.

He added that according to international law, a serious crime committed against a South African national is deemed to have occurred inside the country.

This means that if any of the people mentioned in Davids’ complaint were to enter South Africa, they would have to be arrested as suspects and either tried in a South African court or referred to the International Criminal Court.

Professor Erika de Wet, international law expert and director at the Institute of International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria told City Press the “universal jurisdiction clause” in South African law applies here.

Professor Erika de Wet, international law expert and co-director at the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria told City Press the “universal jurisdiction clause” in South African law applies. “Our law goes further than the ICC Statute requires and if someone is being named in an investigation, then they risk being arrested when on South African territory.”

Davids told City Press: “Since my human rights were infringed, I feel it was my duty to use whatever legal avenues I had at my disposal to seek justice, not only for myself, but for those who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Earlier this year, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim told a press conference that the government “discouraged” people from visiting Israel. He retracted the statement after a public outcry.

Months later, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies issued a notice that all products originating from the West Bank were to be relabelled from “Product of Israel” to “Product of illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank”.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies called the NPA’s decision a “noisy publicity stunt by those dedicated to demonising Israel at every possible opportunity.”

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