April 23, 2009
OSLO (AFP) – Israel's former prime minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials could face legal action in Norway over the Gaza offensive after six Norwegian lawyers said Tuesday they would accuse them of war crimes.
The lawyers, who plan to file their complaint with Norway's chief prosecutor on Wednesday, said they will call for the arrest and extradition of Olmert as well as former foreign affairs minister Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and seven senior Israeli army officers.
Under the Norwegian penal code, courts may hear cases involving war crimes and other major violations of human rights.
The lawyers released a statement accusing Israel of "massive terrorist attacks" in the Gaza Strip from December 27 last year to January 25, killing civilians, illegally using weapons against civilian targets and deliberately attacking hospitals and medical staff.
"There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions," the lawyers' statement said.
It also said the lawyers were representing a number of people living in Norway.
"It involves three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack," one of the lawyers, Kjell Brygfjeld, told AFP.
When questioned on the chances of the case reaching court, fellow lawyer Harald Stabell said: "If we do nothing, it is more likely that a similar attack will happen again in the future."
"In our eyes, the political aspect is less important than the preventive aspect," he added when asked if the move could hinder Norwegian diplomacy in the region.
Israel's embassy in Oslo said they were unaware of the lawyers' attempt to bring the war crimes charges and could not immediately comment.
Israel said the aim of the Gaza offensive was to stop Islamist militants there from firing rockets into their territory.
Gaza medics said 1,300 Palestinians died during the attacks.