Defense for Children International - Palestine v. Biden

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

November 13, 2023

Current Status 

Following a historic hearing that included testimony from seven Palestinian plaintiffs and witnesses as to the scale of destruction in Gaza and the impact on their families and communities, on January 31, 2024, the court found that Israel’s assault and siege on the Palestinian people in Gaza plausibly constitute genocide and “implor[ed]” the Biden administration to examine its “unflagging support” for Israel. Notwithstanding these findings, the court denied our preliminary injunction motion and granted the government's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction over the administration’s conduct of foreign relations. We appealed the decision and filed our brief on March 7, 2024, and eights briefs of amici curiae were filed in support on March 14, 2024. The appellate argument is scheduled for June 10, 2024 and will be livestreamed.

Co-Counsel 

Marc Van Der Hout and Johnny Sinodis of Van Der Hout LLP

Client(s) 

Case Description 

Palestinian human rights organizations, together with Palestinians in Gaza and the U.S., filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin for the U.S. officials’ failure to prevent and complicity in the Israeli government’s unfolding genocide against them, their families, and the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Among the plaintiffs, Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCIP) and Al-Haq are leading Palestinian human rights organizations dedicated to preserving and promoting the human rights of Palestinian people across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, consisting of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. In Gaza, the lawsuit is also brought by Ahmed Abu Artema, founder of the 2018 Great March of Return, Dr. Omar Al-Najjar, a 24-year-old intern physician at Nasser Medical Complex, and Mohammed Ahmed Abu Rokbeh, a field researcher with DCIP. These plaintiffs reside with surviving family members in Gaza, where they have been subjected to a suffocating siege, coupled with indiscriminate Israeli bombardment that killed six members of Ahmed Abu Artema’s family, including his 12-year-old son, five members of Dr. Al-Najjar’s extended family, and eight of Mr. Abu Rokbeh’s. All have been displaced several times in the last few weeks as they seek refuge for themselves and their families. Mohammad Monadel Herzallah, Laila Elhaddad, Waeil Elbhassi, Bassim Elkarra, and Ayman Nijim are citizens and current residents in the U.S. whose families in Gaza have been subjected to repeated Israeli bombardment by air, land, and sea. Their families remain precariously vulnerable to Israel’s continued direct attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, indiscriminate bombardment, and its continued withholding of critical life supporting necessities of water, fuel, and electricity. Together, the individual plaintiffs counted over 100 members of their families killed at the time of filing.

On behalf of plaintiffs, the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with co-counsel Van Der Hout, LLP of San Francisco, filed the case against the three high-level U.S. officials for violations of customary international law, codified in the 1948 Genocide Convention and the corresponding Genocide Convention Implementation Act (18 U.S.C. § 1091) passed by the U.S. Congress in 1988. 

Numerous Israeli government leaders have expressed clear genocidal intentions and deployed dehumanizing characterizations of Palestinians, including “human animals.” At the same time, the Israeli military has bombed civilian areas and infrastructure, including by using chemical weapons, and deprived Palestinians of everything necessary for human life, including water, food, electricity, fuel, and medicine. Those statements of intent – when combined with mass killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, and the total siege and closure creating conditions of life to bring about the physical destruction of the group – reveal evidence of an unfolding crime of genocide. Immediately after the launch of Israel’s unprecedented bombing campaign on Gaza, President Biden offered “unwavering” support for Israel, which he and administration officials have consistently repeated and backed up with military, financial, and political support, even as mass civilian casualties escalated alongside Israeli genocidal rhetoric.

The lawsuit situates the unfolding genocide within a history of Israeli actions against the Palestinian people, starting with the Nakba in 1948. It sets out how defendants Biden, Blinken, and Austin have not only failed to prevent the genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza but have helped advance the gravest of crimes by continuing to provide Israel with unconditional military and diplomatic support, coordinating closely on military strategy, and undermining efforts by the international community to stop Israel’s unrelenting and unprecedented bombing campaign and total siege of Gaza. 

The plaintiffs are filing this federal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief asking the court to declare that these U.S. officials have failed to prevent genocide and are aiding and abetting genocide, and to order an end to U.S. military and diplomatic support to Israel. The lawsuit is accompanied by declarations from leading experts in genocide and the Holocaust and a preliminary injunction (PI) motion, which seeks an emergency order to prohibit any further U.S. military and diplomatic support to Israel while the case is being considered. 

Watch our livestream from before the January 26, 2024 court hearing and learn more at Stop the Genocide.

Case Timeline

June 10, 2024
Oral Argument in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
June 10, 2024
Oral Argument in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Oral argument on the appeal will be held at 9 AM Pacific Time in Court Room 1, James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse, San Francisco. Oral arguments are also livestreamed on the court’s website.

May 7, 2024
Palestinian and Palestinian-American plaintiffs' appellate reply brief
May 7, 2024
Palestinian and Palestinian-American plaintiffs' appellate reply brief
February 27, 2024
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals grants motion to expedite briefing
February 27, 2024
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals grants motion to expedite briefing
Plaintiffs-appellants move to expedite briefing and hearing on this urgent issue on February 12, 2024, which is granted on February 27.
February 8, 2024
Notice of appeal
February 8, 2024
Notice of appeal
January 31, 2024
Judge finds it plausible Israel's conduct amounts to genocide but dismisses case
January 31, 2024
Judge finds it plausible Israel's conduct amounts to genocide but dismisses case

Following on the International Court of Justice's issuance of Provisional Measures in South Africa's case against Israel, the federal court's order determines that there is a plausible case of genocide and Judge White “implores” the Biden administration to examine its “unflagging support” for Israel’s military assault on Gaza.

January 26, 2024
Hearing on preliminary injunction motion and motion to dismiss in Oakland, California
January 26, 2024
Hearing on preliminary injunction motion and motion to dismiss in Oakland, California

The hearing is webstreamed to the public. Before the hearing, lawyers, advocates, and organizers share analysis about the importance to the Palestinian solidarity movement of this momentous court hearing in a livestream. A press conference follows the hearing.

January 16, 2024

Plaintiffs move to file sur-reply to address government's new Alien Tort Statute arguments

January 16, 2024

Plaintiffs move to file sur-reply to address government's new Alien Tort Statute arguments

January 16, 2024
Judge White grants plaintiffs' motions for January 26 hearing to be in-person with live testimony and webstreaming
January 12, 2024
U.S. government reply in support of motion to dismiss
January 12, 2024
U.S. government reply in support of motion to dismiss
December 29, 2023
Amicus briefs in support of plaintiffs
December 29, 2023
Amicus briefs in support of plaintiffs
Briefs of amici curiae are filed by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, California, and the Arab-American Civil Rights League; the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate; Jewish Voice for Peace; international human rights organizations; and doctors and medical professionals.
December 22, 2023
Plaintiffs' opposition to motion to dismiss and reply in support of motion for preliminary injunction with new declarations
December 8, 2023
U.S. government moves to dismiss case
November 13, 2023
Palestinian individuals and organizations file complaint against U.S. government officials