Shimon Peres’ criminal liability under international law
Elias Davidsson, 1993
On 4 October 1985 the Security Council voted Resolution 573 condemning Israel’s attack on Tunisia as an act of armed aggression. In the attack Israeli airplanes used smart bombs to tear to shreds 75 human beings, Tunisians and Palestinians. In addition to being a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter, this attack constituted an act of state terrorism, as its reported aim was to physically liquidate Palestinian leaders.
The gravity of this armed aggression by Israel led to the adoption of a resolution in which
"The Security Council … condemns vigorously the act of armed aggression perpetrated by Israel against Tunisian territory in flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and norms of conduct. (…)"
Israel admitted responsibility for this act of aggression. Mr. Shimon Peres, at that time head of the Israeli Government, bears thus the primary responsibility for this act. It can be safely assumed that he gave the final order for the execution of this act of aggression.
The Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, adopted by the U.N. International Law Commission in 1991, specifies aggression as one of the Crimes against Peace and Security of Mankind.
Thus the Draft Code states (article 13):
The official position of an individual who commits a crime against the peace and security of mankind, and particularly the fact that he acts as head of State or Government, does not relieve him of criminal responsibility
Under the heading Crimes against the peace and security of mankind, subtitle Aggression (article 15) the Draft Code reads:
"1. An individual who as leader or organizer plans, commits or orders the commission of an act of aggression shall, on conviction thereof, be sentenced to (…)
2. Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations."
Although the Draft Code has not yet been incorporated into positive and enforceable international law, it is based on the Nürnberg Charter, the Genera Conventions, the Conventions against the Crime of Genocide, the Convention against Apartheid and other international legal instruments. The Draft Code is looked upon as part of customary international law, and is frequently quoted as one of the most important instruments of modern international criminal law.
Mr. Shimon Peres, as Prime Minister of Israel, is thus clearly responsible as an individual for the crime of aggression, regardless of the liability incurred by Israel as State, such as the obligation to pay compensations to Tunisia and to the families of the victims. The current lack of enforcement mechanisms, which are political in nature, do not reduce the gravity of Mr. Peres’ crime. Until circumstances will permit the arrest, trial and punishment of criminals such as Mr. Peres, I urge authorities of civilized nations to refuse any official dealings with persons for which there is prima facie evidence of implication in such crimes.