US rights group sues Biden for alleged ‘failure to prevent genocide’ in Gaza
In an effort backed by some of the world’s leading genocide and Holocaust experts, a progressive legal advocacy group on Monday (November 13) sued U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for “failure to prevent genocide” by Israeli forces in Gaza and sought an emergency court order to stop American military and diplomatic support for Israel.
The Center for Constitutional Rights’ (CCR) complaintthat Israel’s actions, including “mass killings”, the targeting of civilian infrastructure and forced expulsions, amount to genocide. The CCR said that the 1948 international convention against genocide requires the US and other countries to use their power and influence to stop the killing.
“Biden, Blinken, and Austin, as outlined in the complaint, are sued in their official capacity for failing to prevent an unfolding genocide where they have influence over the state of Israel to do so, and directly abetting its development with weapons, funds, and diplomatic cover, in breach of duties enshrined in the Genocide Convention and customary international law,” CCR said in a statement.
“As Israel’s closest ally and strongest supporter, being its biggest provider of military assistance by a large margin and with Israel being the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II, the United States has the means available to have a deterrent effect on Israeli officials now pursuing genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” the complaint argued.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, asks the court to bar the US from providing weapons, money and diplomatic support to Israel. It also seeks a declaration that the president, the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, are required “to take all measures within their power to prevent Israel’s commission of genocidal acts against the Palestinian people of Gaza”. These include pressing Israel to end the bombing of Gaza, to lift its siege of the territory and to prevent the forcible expulsion of Palestinians.
The CCR, which won a landmark case in the US supreme court in 2004 establishing the rights of prisoners held by the US military at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, said that the Hamas cross-border attack on 7 October, in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 abducted, does not provide a legal justification for the scale of Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including 4,600 children, and displaced 1.5 million people.
The lawsuit comes as the international criminal court investigates Israel and Hamas for alleged war crimes. But legal scholars say that genocide is a harder crime to prove and question whether the president can be forced to find that Israel is committing genocide and is therefore under an obligation to act.
President Bill Clinton refused to recognise the systematic murder of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 as genocide in order to sidestep the legal obligation to intervene. He later apologised to the Rwandan people.
The 1948 convention, written in the wake of the Holocaust, defines genocide as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. The convention’s first article requires signatories, which include the US, “to prevent and to punish” genocide.
The lawsuit lists a series of actions taken by Israel that the CCR said amount to genocide against the Palestinian people. These include the scale of civilian deaths, systemic collective punishment and “deprivation of the most basic necessities of life”.
The group said that the Israeli order for more than 1 million Palestinians to leave their homes in Gaza, alongside the language used by Israeli political and military leaders, amounted to a call to commit genocide. The lawsuit noted Benjamin Netanyahu’s quoting of Deuteronomy: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible, and we do remember, and we are fighting.”
The CCR’s complaint said: “In the Bible, God commands the extermination of Amalekite men, women, children, and animals, and this commandment is described by scholars as ‘divinely mandated genocide’.”
The lawsuit said senior Israeli officers stated “the intention to destroy Palestinian life in Gaza” including Ma Gen Ghassan Alian, who said: “Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell.”
The CCR quoted an international court of justice ruling that there is an obligation by states to prevent genocide by employing “all means reasonably available to them”. “Under international law, the United States has a duty to take all measures available to it to prevent genocide,” the lawsuit said.
“Yet, defendants repeatedly refused to use their obvious and considerable leverage to set conditions or place limits on Israel’s massive bombing and total siege of Gaza. They have done so despite escalating evidence of Israeli policies directed at inflicting mass harm to the Palestinian population in Gaza, including the creation of conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction through a total siege, and even in the face of mounting deaths including of thousands of children.”
The CCR said that the US recently affirmed its understanding and agreement with obligations to prevent and punish genocide.
“When it intervened in Ukraine’s case against Russia at the international court of justice, the United States explicitly acknowledged, as that court had previously held, that a state’s ‘obligation to prevent, and the corresponding duty to act, arise at the instant that the state learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed’,” the lawsuit said.
Source: The Gurdian/Common Dreams.org