The narrative below is the third in a series of three stories documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a Grassroots International partner since 1996. PCHR has gained an international reputation as an independent voice on human rights documenting abuses carried out by both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Raji Sourani, the founder and director of PCHR, recently received the Right Livelihood Award (known as the Alternative Nobel Prize). The PCHR documents human rights violations, provides legal aid to victims, advocates for greater economic and social rights, and, in particular, defends the rights of Gaza fishers who are routinely denied access to their fishing waters by the Israeli Defense Forces.
“My whole family, my parents, my brother, and my sister were killed in the attack and I want to know why. Why did they kill my family?” asks Mahmoud Ezz Eddin Wahid Mousa.
On January 14th 2009 Israeli forces carried out a drone strike at the Ezz Eddin Wahid Mousa family home in Gaza City. At the time of the strike the family was sitting in the tin-roofed front yard of their house and had just finished having dinner. Six members of the Mousa family were killed in the attack.
Mahmoud, a 28 year-old man, was severely injured in the attack. Among other wounds, Mahmoud sustained several injuries in his right hand and right leg, impairing the nervous system in both limbs. More than four years after the attack, Mahmoud has still not recovered from his injuries, despite having been treated in hospitals in the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
In January of 2010 PCHR filed a civil compensation case before the Israeli court on Mahmoud’s behalf. But on February 27, 2013, the case was dismissed on the grounds that certain Israeli legal provisions absolve the Israeli State of any liability arising from the damages caused by Israeli forces during a ‘combat action.’
“This is not a law, how can they make such a law?” asks Mahmoud. “We are all civilians, and do not have any connections with militants. This was not a military operation; this was a civilian operation to kill my family. Why can’t they give me any reasons? It feels like my family died for nothing.”
Mahmoud learned the case was dismissed later, while he was receiving treatment in Egypt.
“I want an Israeli judge to tell me what he would do if he were in my place… If his family was killed in such an attack, he won’t have dismissed the case… We were just having dinner. What is wrong with that?”
When national remedies have failed, one of PCHR’s strategies has been to use the principle of universal jurisdiction, a legal principle which allows states or international courts to try individuals outside of their jurisdiction. PCHR continues to use this and other innovative tactics in defending many Palestinians like Mahmoud.
“If someone else was in my place he would lose all hope. He would give up. But I won’t,” says Mahmoud. “I will keep fighting this case… I still have hope that someone will do justice. If I die before that then I will tell my next generations to fight the case…I cannot give up my family’s dignity.”