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US Appeals Court holds that Former Foreign Officials Entitled to Immunity in Civil Suit alleging War Crimes

The Second Circuit of the US Court of Appeals has recently (April 16, 09) held  in Matar v. Dichter that the former head of the Israeli General Security Service is immune in a civil suit brought under the US Aliens Tort Claims Act (28 USC  § 1350) alleging war crimes and extrajudicial killing. The suit relates to Dichter's participation in an attack on a suspected Hamas leader (Saleh Mustafah Shehadeh) in July 2002. Shehadeh's apartment was bombed by an Israeli military jet in attack which destroyed the apartment building and surrounding buildings. Apart from Shehadeh, 14 other people were killed in the attack. This case is part of  a growing list of US cases addressing the legal basis of the immunity of foreign officials. There is a split among the Circuits of the Court of Appeals as to whether foriegn officials are to be considered as an "agency or instrumentality" and thus entitled to immunity under §1603 the US's Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA) (for recent analysis, see Bradley, Foreign Officials and Sovereign Immunity in US Courts, ASIL…

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Is Gaza Still Occupied by Israel?

While the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas was still ongoing, I was wary of commenting on what is a very contentious legal issue - whether Gaza is still to be considered as occupied as a matter of international humanitarian law, even after Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005. I was wary of doing so primarily because the issue…

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Who is a Civilian? A Follow up on the Status of Hamas Police Officers

At the end of 2008, I put up a post in which I suggested that a key issue in assessing the lawfulness of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza was determning the status of Hama police officers. Before attempting to make the proportionality calculation International Humanitarian Law (IHL) requires, one has to first answer the question who is a civilian and…

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A Follow-Up on Israel and Gaza

I just wanted to add a few thoughts after Dapo’s excellent post on the Gaza conflict, of which there seems to be no end in sight. First, a word of warning. As Dapo pointed out, talking about these matters without knowing all the facts is truly dangerous. Indeed, it only tends to expose the speaker’s political and ideological…

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Israeli raids in Gaza: Proportionality and the Status of Hamas Policemen

The latest Israeli raids in Gaza are said to have killed over 300 people (injuring over 1000 others) with most of the dead being Haman policemen and security officials. Israel has launched the raids in response to the repeated rocket fire into Israel from Gaza. Given the very high Palestinian casualties resulting from Israel's raids and (as far as…

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