The killing of Zuhair al-Qaissi exposes Israel’s attitude to its supreme court

Mya Guarnieri writes: The recent escalation between Israel and Gaza began after Israeli forces assassinated Zuhair al-Qaissi, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a militant group composed of members of various Palestinian parties. Haaretz noted that the PRC was “the organisation that captured Gilad Shalit”, the Israeli soldier who was freed in October 2011. The army says that al-Qaissi was behind the August 2011 attack that took place on the Israeli-Egyptian border – even though the PRC denied involvement and it was later revealed that the militants came from Sinai, not Gaza.

While army sources took care to point out al-Qaissi’s alleged involvement in the August 2011 incident, his assassination wasn’t just an act of punishment. No, Israel killed him on the basis of secret evidence – evidence that is not subject to legal or judicial review – that supposedly proves that al-Qaissi was planning a terror attack. Never mind that the Israeli supreme court’s December 2006 ruling placed numerous restrictions on such assassinations.

Fatmeh el-Ajou, an attorney with Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, explains that while the judgment did not place a blanket prohibition on targeted killings, it stated that the decision to carry out an assassination must be made on a case-by-case basis, “depending on the evidence that [security forces] have”. But, without seeing the security forces’ secret evidence, it’s impossible to know if al-Qaissi was indeed planning an attack, and if the army was in line with the 2006 ruling. There’s no transparency in this so-called democracy and, without transparency, there is no accountability to the state’s highest court. “From the perspective of human rights law,” el-Ajou adds, “assassinations are not legitimate … They should only be carried out if there is a ‘ticking bomb.’ [Suspects] should be brought to trial.”

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