Israel's Benny Gantz immune from prosecution in Gaza bombing case

The court said it was 'not blind to the plaintiff's suffering'

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz cannot be prosecuted in a Dutch civil court for carrying out Israeli policy. Reuters
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Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz is immune from civil prosecution over the deaths of six Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike, a Dutch court has ruled.

The Hague Court of Appeal ruled the case against Mr Gantz, who was a senior military officer at the time of the air strike, and former air force commander Amir Eshel could not proceed because the men have “functional immunity from jurisdiction.”

The court said it was “not blind to the plaintiff's suffering” but the men had immunity because they were carrying out Israeli government policies.

That meant “a judgment on their actions will necessarily include a judgment on the actions of the state of Israel”, over which a Dutch court had no jurisdiction, according to a summary of the judges' decision read out in the court.

Plaintiff Ismail Ziada, a Dutch national of Palestinian origin, said he lost six relatives – his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew – in the 2014 attack.

“Dutch courts are not competent here to judge the claim. The (lower) court rightly decided that,” The Hague appeals court said.

Plaintiff Ismail Ziada, right, and his lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, after the Dutch appeals court ruling. AP

“High-ranking military personnel have carried out official policy of the state of Israel, which renders a judgment on their actions moribund.”

Mr Ziada was seeking unspecified damages against Mr Gantz, who was Israeli armed forces' commander-in-chief at the time of the attack.

Israel's Deputy Attorney General Roy Schondorf welcomed the ruling.

“It is a most important legal precedent that safeguards Israel's military commanders as a whole against similar attempts,” he said.

The Dutch court said it was not blind to the suffering of Palestinians and the plaintiff.  AP

Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes no matter where they were committed.

However, the Dutch court said it could not be applied in civil damages cases in the Netherlands, even if they concerned alleged war crimes.

Updated: December 07, 2021, 11:55 AM