At a Glance
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit against the President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense on behalf of two Palestinian organizations and eight Palestinians, some in the U.S. and some in Palestine, to challenge the U.S. government's aiding and abetting of genocide and demand that it work to prevent genocide and comply with its legal obligations under international law. We filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on November 16, 2023.
Marc Van Der Hout and Johnny Sinodis of Van Der Hout LLP
Defense for Children International - Palestine
Ahmed Abu Artema
Mohammed Ahmed Abu Rokbeh
Dr. Omar El-Najjar
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 “A.N.” 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 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.