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Charges of ‘Aiding and Abetting’ Genocide in Gaza Filed Against Germany's Scholz

German Leopard 2A6 tank. Credit: U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach

German lawyers, representing the families of two Gazans, have filed a criminal complaint “against German Government officials (1), for the crime of aiding and abetting genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza by providing Israel with weapons and issuing related export permissions.” The lawsuit was filed with Germany’s Office of the Federal Prosecutor. Charged are Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner, along with members of the German government’s arms export licensing agency.

The filing was announced Feb. 22 by the “Justice and Accountability for Palestine Initiative,” a global network of Palestinian and international legal experts and human rights advocates formed jointly in January 2024 by the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD), and Law for Palestine, to coordinate investigations and legal actions against individuals and entities implicated in crimes in Palestine.

The Justice and Accountability Initiative press release makes clear the charges against Scholz et al. are premised on the International Court of Justice’s Jan. 26 ruling on the South African case that Israel is carrying out genocide in Gaza:

“German criminal law requires a ground for initial suspicion to start investigations on a potential crime being committed. The ICJ ruling clearly showed that there is such ground for initial suspicion when it comes to the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” the press release reports. It specifies: “When it comes to `aiding and abetting,’ this can be done through logistical, financial or material support, but also by creating favorable conditions for the main crime. In particular, aiding and abetting includes the authorization of arms exports and political support.”

Cited as evidence for this charge is the tenfold increase of German arms exports to Israel in 2023 as compared to 2022, most of the exports being approved after Oct. 7.

The release quotes Nora Ragab, one of the plaintiffs in the case who has relatives in Gaza: “We, Palestinians in the diaspora, will not stand by and watch a genocide being committed against our families and our people. We will use all means at our disposal, from protests on the streets to lawsuits in criminal courts. Today we aim to hold the German government accountable for its complicity in the genocide in Gaza.”

When launched in Amsterdam on Jan. 22, the Justice and Accountability for Palestine Initiative warned public officials from Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands “that they could be individually liable for their role in aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of Genocide through their involvement in providing military, economic, and political support to Israel.”

This new lawsuit “sends a clear message to German officials: you cannot continue to remain accomplices of such crime without consequences. We want accountability,” said Nadija Samour, the lawyer from ELSC who filed the charges.