Campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinian people
Wednesday 25 April 2012, 02pm
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) is a court of the people, an international, citizen-based Tribunal of Conscience created in response to the demands of civil society (NGOs, trade unions, charities, faith-based organisations) to highlight the 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.
In view of the failure to implement the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory(1) the failure to implement resolution ES-10/15 con?rming the ICJ Opinion, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 July 2004, and the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009, committees were established in different countries to promote and sustain this citizen’s initiative in support of the rights of the Palestinian people(2)
The RToP is imbued with the same spirit as the Tribunal on Vietnam (1966-1967), which was established by the eminent scholar and philosopher Bertrand Russell, and the Tribunal on Latin American dictatorships (1974-1976), organized together with the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples. “The legality of the Russell Tribunal comes from both its absolute powerlessness and its universality.”(3)
Indeed, the RToP has no legal status, and draws its strength from the will of citizens who wish to put an end to the impunity that Israel enjoys while denying the Palestinians their most basic rights. It does not compete with other jurisdictions (domestic or international), but works on a complementary basis to enforce the law in the Israeli-Palestinian con?ict. The eminence of the RToP stems from its extensive International Support Committee, which includes Nobel Prize laureates, a former United Nations Secretary-General, former Heads of State, other personalities who have held high political of?ce, and representatives of civil society, writers, journalists, poets, actors, ?lm directors, scientists, professors, lawyers and judges.
The jury of the RToP is made up of international personalities known for their actions and moral integrity: Stéphane Hessel, Ambassador of France, honorary president of the RToP, a participant in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France; Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate 1976, Northern Ireland; John Dugard, Professor of international law, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, South Africa; Lord Anthony Gifford, senior barrister and hereditary peer, founder of the law ?rm Gifford Thompson & Bright, United Kingdom; Gisèle Halimi, lawyer, former Ambassador to UNESCO, France; Ronald Kasrils, writer and activist, former Minister, South Africa; Michael Mans?eld, barrister, President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, United Kingdom; José Antonio Martín Pallín, Emeritus Judge, Chamber II, Supreme Court, Spain; Cynthia McKinney, former Member of the US Congress and 2008 presidential candidate, Green Party, USA; Alberto San Juan, actor, Spain; Yasmin Sooka, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights, South Africa; Aminata Traoré, author and former Minister of Culture of Mali; Alice Walker, poet and writer, USA.
The Russell Tribunal hearings
The RToP proceedings comprise a number of sessions dealing with different aspects of the national organisations and corporations in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the continuous violations of international law committed by Israel. They also aim to highlight the continuity and comprehensiveness of the Israeli policy that aims ultimately to render impossible the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The RToP met for its ?rst international session in Barcelona from 1 to 3 March 2010 to consider the complicity and omissions of the European Union and its Member States in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the continuous violations of international law by Israel.
The second international session of the RToP was held in London from 20 to 22 November 2010. It examined international corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
This third international session of the RToP took place in South Africa from 5 to 7 November 2011 to deal with the following question: “Are Israeli practices against the Palestinian people in breach of the prohibition on apartheid under international law?”
The fourth international session of the RToP to be held in 2012 in New York will consider the complicity and omissions of the United Nations and the United States of America in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel and the continuous violations of the rights of the Palestinian people by Israel.
A closing session will be organised, by the beginning of 2013, to deliver the ?nal conclusions of the RToP. The full conclusions of the ?rst three sessions are available at
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the struggle against apartheid
The trade union movement in Ireland is proud of its history of principled opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, as President of South Africa, explicitly praised the trade union movement here for the contribution it made to the international civil society boycott movement that helped to bring about the downfall of the apartheid regime. Apartheid however does not refer just to the South African context, but is a recognized crime against humanity that can exist anywhere where there is a breach of the 1973 UN International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The Russell Tribunal findings, outlined above, clearly indicate that on the basis of the definition of the crime of apartheid, and also because of the similarity with South Africa, Israel is functioning as an apartheid state, i.e., that that is deliberate state policy just as it was in apartheid South Africa. There is a moral obligation therefore on all citizens to oppose this apartheid Israeli regime, and there is additionally a legal duty on states to oppose this injustice. Just as the international trade union movement took action to mobilize civil society in opposition to apartheid South Africa, and to promote a mass boycott and divestment campaign, so too the international trade union movement today should listen to the call of the Palestinian people for a similar campaign and lead the mobilization against apartheid Israel. The Irish trade union movement, in adopting its 2007 ICTU BDC policy of supporting the Palestinian civil society call for boycott and divestment, the first western trade union confederation to do so, is in the vanguard of this solidarity movement.