The Russell Tribunal on Palestine is a people’s tribunal established in 2009 after Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive that devastated the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009. The tribunal was created to examine the role and complicity of third parties (governments, institutions, and corporations) in international law violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. The tribunal’s roots date back to 1966 when the first Russell Tribunal was established by leading European intellectuals to investigate crimes committed in Vietnam. In the intervening decades, various iterations of the Russell Tribunal were established, including a Russell Tribunal on Iraq (2004). Both then and now, “The Russell Tribunal has no legal status but acts as a court of the people, a Tribunal of conscience, faced with injustices and violations of international law, that are not dealt with by existing international jurisdictions, or that are recognized but continue with complete impunity due to the lack of political will of the international community.”
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was established to:
[E]xamine the various responsibilities that lead to the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel and the non-application of the United Nations resolutions, from Resolution 181 of the 29th of November 1947, on the partition of Palestine, to Resolution ES-10/15 of the 20th of July 2004, that acknowledges the Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – of the 9th of July 2004 – on the construction of the Wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and requests all the UN Member States to acquit themselves of their legal obligations as defined by the ICJ Opinion. The responsibilities of Israel and also of other states, particularly the United States and the Member States of the European Union, the Arab States and the international organisations concerned (United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League) will be scrutinised.
The Tribunal also aims, through this approach, to contribute to the mobilisation and the involvement of civil society in all the states concerned on the question of Palestine.
Although the tribunal’s work on Palestine formally concluded in 2012, Israel’s July 2014 offensive in Gaza compelled the tribunal to convene a special session in Brussels, which was held between September 24-25, 2014. Members of the jury included legal experts, Michael Mansfield QC, John Dugard, and Richard Falk, Egyptian novelist and activist, Ahdaf Soueif, and musician and Pink Floyd-founding member, Roger Waters. The jury heard testimony from journalists David Sheen, Max Blumenthal, and Mohammed Omer, Israeli activist and Refusnik, Eran Efrati, and Drs. Mohammed Abou Arab and Mads Gilbert, who worked at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital during the bombing treating victims of Israeli aggression, among others.
In a world where Israel is able to commit crimes agains the Palestinians with impunity, the Russell Tribunal poignantly simulates the legal accountability that remains elusive. The videos below capture testimony from several jury members and witnesses, presented at the Brussels’ meeting. They are a critical part of the public record on Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. When the day finally comes for Palestinians to have their day in court, this evidence will be hard to challenge.