The case for human rights

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Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed in 2003 while trying to block the bulldozer from demolishing Palestinian homes Photo courtesy of Reuters

 

A ten year civil suit battle for justice ends with disappointment]

Taouba Kheilfa
News Editor

After a 10 year civil suit battle, Israeli courts ruled on Tuesday,

August 28 that the Israeli army was not at fault for the death of American activist, Rachel Corrie.

Corrie, who was 23 years old when she died, was a human rights activist for Palestinian rights. In 2003, Corrie left her home in Washington State for Rafah in Southern Gaza to join in the ground work of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Along with other activists in this group, Corrie worked to stop the Israeli army from demolishing Palestinian homes and destroying farms and land around the area.

On March 16, 2003 Corrie stood outside of a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip, wearing an orange high-visibility jacket, speaking into a megaphone and blocking the path of an Israeli military bulldozer from carrying out a demolition. Corrie was killed when the bulldozer approached the home and drove over her body.

Israeli courts have cleared the Israeli military from any responsibility for the death. Judge Oded Gershon, who gave the final verdict on the case, concluded that he rejected the law suit because there was no justification to demand the state to pay any damages or take responsibility for Corrie’s death. If anything, Gershon stated that Corrie had been killed as a result of her own irresponsible behaviour.

“I reached the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver,” Gershon said. “The deceased put herself into a dangerous situation; she stood in front of a giant bulldozer in a place where the operator could not see her. She did not distance herself as a reasonable person would have done. Her death is a result of an accident she brought upon herself.”


“We knew from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle to find truth and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict not only distorts the strong evidence presented in court, but also contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders." – Hussein Abu Hussein


Corrie’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, had been fighting to bring justice for their daughter since she had been killed. The Corries had only requested a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses for the civil case, stressing that the purpose of the lawsuit was larger than compensation for their loss. Instead, the case was about understanding what happened to their daughter, and exposing the injustices of a corrupt system. Needless to say, the verdict has left the family very upset.

“We are, of course, deeply saddened and deeply troubled by what we heard…from Judge Oded Gershon,” said Corrie’s mother, Cindy.

“I believe this was a bad day – not only for our family but for human rights, the rule of law, and also for the country of Israel.”

Despite a verdict being reached, Corrie’s case has highlighted Israel’s grave breaches of human rights and the impunity enjoyed by the military forces.

Tom Dale, a British activist who stood only 30 feet away when Corrie was crushed, shared the feeling of disappointment upon hearing the verdict, but was not shocked to hear the results.       

“For the Corrie family, and for activists who've been following this case, there wasn’t a great deal of surprise, unfortunately, about [the] verdict…Those of us who follow events in Israel and Palestine are aware that day-in and day-out, in the West Bank, in Gaza, and in East Jerusalem…things are carried out by the Israeli army which ought to lead to the conviction of soldiers, but which doesn’t,” he said.

“We perceive that to be [the] general culture impunity amongst Israeli military of which [Corrie’s] verdict is an expression. On the basis of what I saw on that day in 2003…I don’t think it can simply be dismissed as an accident.” 

Along with the disappointed voices of Corrie’s family, friends, and human right’s activists, Corrie’s family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, has also accused the court of allowing impunity over accountability and fairness in the courts and the army.

“We knew from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle to find truth and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict not only distorts the strong evidence presented in court, but also contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders,” said Abu Hussein.

“In denying justice in Rachel Corrie's killing, this verdict is part of a systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights. Rachel Corrie was killed while non-violently protesting home demolitions and injustice in Gaza, and [the] court has given its stamp of approval to flawed and illegal practices that failed to protect civilian life.”

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