International law must be universal: leading Palestinian rights activist

Madrid, Mar 1 (EFE).- Europe’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its welcoming of millions of Ukrainian refugees was positive but underlined a selective approach to international human rights, leading Palestinian activist Raji Sourani has said.

The Gaza Strip-based Sourani, founder and director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, sat down for an interview with Spain’s international news agency Efe in Madrid on Wednesday.

“There were nine waves of sanctions, one after another, against Russia,” Sourani said of Europe’s swift reaction to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “That’s good, that’s positive and that’s legitimate,” he added.

Sourani, 69, also welcomed the International Criminal Court investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

“I am, as a human rights activist, in full support of that,” he told Efe.

But, he said, it revealed a double standard in Europe’s response to violations of international law and human rights, especially with regard to holding Israel accountable for its alleged human rights violations and war crimes.

“You cannot be either selective or politicizing international law and human rights. Because if I’m talking about Ukraine and its rights, what about Palestine and Palestinians and their and its human rights,” Sourani said.

“Our ‘Nakba’ was 75 years ago, and people are still waiting and dreaming of returning, and no help from anybody, while Ukrainian refugees are respected in a human way, as it should be,” he said in reference to the mass displacement of Palestinian people that occurred in 1948.

Sourani said an ICC decision two years ago to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers had yet to make any progress, and that previous attempts to launch cases under universal jurisdiction in Europe had also been unsuccessful.

The lawyer was in Spain to collect the international human rights award by Spanish organization APDHE.

He called on the country to take a leading role in advocating for the respect of international law.

Sourani praised a recent decision by Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau to suspend the city’s relations with Israel and its twinned status with Tel Aviv.

“I have all respect for this courageous mayor and I bow to her,” he said.

“If you are (engaging in illegal acts) and (working) against human rights, you cannot be proud of having that (twinned status). What she did just fits ideally with international humanitarian law and the right of people.”

He said her move would set a precedent and trigger a domino effect across Europe.

Sourani’s comments to Efe come amid a new spike of violence in Israel and Palestine, which so far this year has left 13 Israelis and 63 Palestinians dead, the highest number in occupied territory since 2000, according to the Palestinian ministry of health.

The mounting bloodshed has also coincided with the start of a new right-wing coalition government composed of ultra-nationalist and religious forces, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. EFE


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