Opinion of the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for 
the Former Yugoslavia: The assassinations are war crimes 

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Opinion of the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for 
the Former Yugoslavia and world renowned expert on International 
Humanitarian Law, Professor Antonio Cassese determines: The 
assassinations are war crimes 

The expert opinion will be submitted to the High Court of Justice 
tomorrow, June 18, prior to the hearing scheduled for July 18, 2003 on 
the petition submitted by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel 
and LAW-The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and 
the Environment against Israel’s assassination policy 

In an opinion, unprecedented for its severity, Professor Antonio Cassese, 
renowned expert on international humanitarian law, determines that the 
assassinations carried out by the IDF in the Occupied Territories could 
be included in the legal definition of war crimes. Professor Cassese’s 
opinion will be submitted tomorrow to the High Court of Justice prior to 
the hearing scheduled for July 8, 2003 on the petition filed by LAW-The 
Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the 
Environment and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). 

Attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard filed the petition in January 
2002. The panel of justices appointed to hear the petition is considered 
the most senior at the High Court of Justice and includes Chief Justice 
Aharon Barak and the Justices Theodore Or and Eliyahu Matza. The court 
has already rejected the State’s claim that the assassinations are not 
actionable. At the next hearing, which will be held after repeated 
postponements by the State, the Court will hear the petitioners’ request 
for an interim injunction prohibiting assassinations until a decision on 
the petition is handed down. The petition claims that between the 
beginning of the Intifada and until April 2003 the IDF assassinated over 
230 Palestinians, among them 80 innocent children, women and male 

In his 20-page opinion, Professor Antonio Cassese states that the killing 
of civilians suspected of terrorist activities, if not carried out while 
they are directly engaged in these activities, is a blatant violation of 
one of the most fundamental tenets of international law ­ the obligation 
of warring sides to distinguish between combatants and civilians. 
Professor Cassese opinion is considered unprecedented in its severity due 
to the fact that he is considered a world renowned expert in 
International Humanitarian Law and his prestige among international 
experts in the field. 

Professor Antonio Cassese served as a justice on the International 
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the years 1993-2000 and 
was the tribunal’s first president until 1997. In 2002 he was awarded an 
international prize by the International Academy for Culture, which is 
headed by Noble Prize winner Eli Weizel. The prize was awarded to 
Professor Cassese in honor of his ”exceptional contribution to the 
protection of human rights in Europe and in the world”. He is a world-
respected lecturer at several universities, among them the universities 
in Florence, Rotterdam, the Sorbonne and the University of Paris. He was 
a member of the UN Human Rights Commission and served as the president of 
the European Council’s Committee on Torture. He is the author of many 
authoritative books and articles in the field of International 
Humanitarian Law. 

PCATI and LAW state that Professor Cassese’s detailed opinion affirms 
that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is in complete 
violation of the principles of ethics and justice as reflected under 
international law. The organizations state “The large numbers of 
complaints which daily accumulate in the organizations’ offices on the 
severe violations of the rights of Palestinians are a testimony to the 
fact that the army has long ago stopped dealing solely with the defense 
of the security of Israel. The army and Israeli security forces are daily 
involved in violations of international law including assassinations, 
torture and severe physical and psychological violations of Palestinians. 
These actions do not prevent war, they create it”. 

For additional details please call: 

Attorney Michael Sfard 
Tel: 03-5608833 

Dianne Luping, LAW
Tel: 02-5833430, 055-761847 

Hannah Friedman, PCATI
Tel: 02-5630073, 056-556442 

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the 
Environment is a non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving 
human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is affiliate to the 
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Federation 
for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organization Against Torture 

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the 
Environment, PO Box 20873, Jerusalem, tel. +972-2-5833530, fax. +972-2-
5833317, law@lawsociety.org, www.lawsociety.org


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