Suspicion of war crimes due to Israeli airstrikes

German Federal Public Prosecutor General's Office should immediately initiate investigations in the case of the Abujadallah family

20.12.2023

Civilians should be specially protected in armed conflicts, at least according to international law. In the current war in Israel/Palestine, this requirement is being cruelly disregarded on a daily basis. If the victims are German citizens, it is the task of Germany’s Federal Public Prosecutor's Office to determine whether these acts constitute war crimes within the meaning of the German Code of Crimes against International Law. In the case of the German nationals killed by Hamas perpetrators in Israel on 7 October, such investigations were started immediately, although not under international criminal law. In the case of the German-Palestinian family Abujadallah, six family members were killed in the course of Israeli airstrikes at the end of October: in addition to the parents Yousef and Ayah, their four children Salahuddin, Mohammad, Abdulrahman and Omer were also killed.  

In this case, the Federal Public Prosecutor General's office has so far not seen any grounds to investigate the family’s killing as possible offences under international criminal law. Instead, it deems criminal investigation into the killings under Germany’s regular criminal code by the public prosecutor's office in Dortmund, the family's place of residence in Germany,  to be sufficient, even though this legal framework precludes the possibility of prosecuting international crimes.  With the request for an investigation that has now been submitted, ECCHR seeks to remind everyone that the same law must apply to all. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office must fulfill its obligations to conduct structural investigations within the global structure of international criminal justice, just like the International Criminal Court and other national prosecutors. Andreas Schüller, Head of ECCHR’s International Crimes and Accountability Program says: "I find it incomprehensible that the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office sees no evidence of violations of the Code of Crimes against International Law in the case of the Abujadallah family. Investigations are necessary to determine whether international law has been broken." 

The importance of swift investigations for the prosecution of possible war crimes is clearly demonstrated in the context of Ukraine. As a cautionary counter-example, ECCHR's experience in the case of the Kilani family illustrates how delaying investigations prevents alleged war crimes from being dealt with appropriately under international law. 

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