The Hague, Netherlands – A Dutch court has dismissed a war crimes case against Benny Gantz, the Israeli former general who will compete with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
The Hague District Court said on Wednesday it was not competent to rule in a civil case brought by a Dutch-Palestinian man against Gantz and a codefendant, Amir Eshel.
In a civil proceeding, Ismail Ziada is seeking damages from the former generals for their role in the killing of six of his relatives during the 2014 Gaza War.
Ziada’s mother, three brothers, sister-in-law and 12-year-old nephew were killed in a bombing on the family home by the Israeli air force on July 20, 2014.
At that time, Gantz was chief of staff of the Israeli military and Eshel commanded the air force.
A judge told the court that Gantz and Eshel “enjoy functional immunity” because they acted in an official capacity and that “the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction” in this case.
‘War criminals have impunity’
Ziada sat stone-faced with arms crossed as he heard the verdict. After the hearing, he told reporters that he thought the decision was “unacceptable”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, he said: “It’s frustrating that as a victim of war crimes, the war criminals have impunity and the victim doesn’t have access to justice. It’s the world on its head.”
Ziada, who was born in Gaza and is also a Dutch citizen, sued in a civil court in the Netherlands.
He claims he cannot access justice in Israel because of the judicial system’s discriminatory practices against Palestinians.
Dutch courts can rule on war crimes committed abroad in civil proceedings for Dutch citizens who are unable to get a fair trial elsewhere.
“As a Palestinian, Israelis can kill us can destroy our houses, they can confiscate our lands, they made us refugees and there are no consequences whatsoever,” he said, calling the Israeli judicial system “a mockery when it comes to Palestinians”.
Ziada said he will examine the verdict before deciding whether he will appeal or not.
Thom Dieben, a lawyer for Gantz and Eshel, said he was satisfied with the verdict.
“We believe this verdict is the only legally correct one. The court decided that a case like this one does not belong in the Netherlands and that, as we argued, the only judge who can rule on this is an Israeli judge,” he told Al Jazeera.
Ziada’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, said the judge’s decision was “very conservative”.
The judges based themselves on a lack of state practice, or precedent set by national courts in similar cases, she said.
“They are the state practice. I think that’s cowardly,” she told Al Jazeera.
Gantz is now the leader of the Blue and White party and is facing off with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the third time in a year, in parliamentary elections in March.
Elections in April and September last year failed to produce a viable coalition.
The former Israeli army chief has previously boasted of sending parts of Gaza “back to the Stone Age” in a campaign video released ahead of the April 2019 election.
On Monday, Gantz met US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, to discuss the president’s widely criticised Middle East plan since announced by the White House.