IBA joins lawyers, law firms and other professional bodies in condemning ‘heinous’ attacks on Israel

International lawyers’ group echoes ABA in calling on Israel to adhere to international legal standards in its response
BEER SHEVA, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 07, 2023: A column of smoke at the site of a fallen Hamas rocket from the Gaza Strip

Beer Sheva: a column of smoke at the site of a fallen Hamas rocket from the Gaza Strip Opachevsky Irina; Shutterstock

The International Bar Association (IBA) has today added its voice to other professional bodies, law firms and advocates in condemning the attacks on Israel by Hamas.

In a statement, IBA president Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama called the attacks “heinous” and condemned any “indiscriminate and targeted atrocities against Israeli citizens” which she said contravened international law. 

She added: “The murder of civilians, the assaults, and the trespass into private homes to kill and maim are all internationally recognised crimes of profound gravity; the abductions and taking of hostages, including women, children and the elderly, are crimes in violation of human rights and humanitarian law.”

The latest media reports suggest that more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed since Hamas forces entered the country on Saturday, while more than 1,500 militants have been killed in subsequent exchanges. In Gaza, officials have reported more than 900 deaths, according to the BBC.

While acknowledging Israel’s inherent right to self-defence, Arpón de Mendívil Aldama urged the Israeli Defence Forces to ensure that civilian populations were shielded from harm, saying, “military actions [should be] conducted with a clear commitment to the international legal principles of distinction and proportionality”.

The American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) president, Mary Smith, issued a similar message earlier this week, condemning the attacks by Hamas and calling for “both sides to show restraint to spare the lives of the innocent people caught up in these attacks” as well as for the immediate release of hostages.

“Brutal attacks on civilians are never a solution to disputes or a justifiable way to air grievances,” she said. “Israel and the Palestinians have had long-running disagreements and differences, but that in no way justifies the actions of Hamas. The state of Israel has the right to exist, and its citizens are entitled to live in safety and peace.”

Local lawyers were swift to respond to the attacks on social media. Zohar Fisher, the chairman and co-founder at alternative law services provider LawFlex, wrote that “Israel has every right to defend itself” in commenting on the atrocities. 

International law firms with Israeli offices, which include Greenberg Traurig and Sullivan & Worcester, confirmed that many lawyers were working remotely as the conflict continued. “We stand with the many innocent people who have died or been injured due to this terrorist attack,” a Greenberg Traurig spokesperson said. Last year, the firm hired a five-lawyer team in Tel Aviv and New York.

UK firms with offices in Israel include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, CMS and Kennedys. 

Anglo-Israeli law firm Asserson posted on LinkedIn: “Israel is under attack, and the emerging reality is heartbreaking.” 

As Israeli reservists responded to orders to mobilise, the firm added: “Our determination remains as robust as ever. Determination to support each other and our families – many of whom have been called into active service. Determination to support our communities and fellow citizens in this hour of dire need. And determination to see that the country which many of us now call home will overcome its latest challenge and emerge stronger.”

Law firms across the world have responded to the crisis by condemning the attack on Israel. Herbert Smith Freehills CEO Justin D’Agostino sent around an all-staff briefing saying terrorism and “hatred in any form” were inappropriate.

London-based Hausfeld partner Duran Ross said he was “shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened by the awful stream of news continuing to come out of the ongoing brutal terrorist attack within Israel”. 

Marc Keidan and Luke Harrison, of London disputes firm Keidan Harrison, wrote on LinkedIn that the firm “condemns strongly and unequivocally the appalling terrorist attack on Israel. There can be no justification for the terrible atrocities”.

They added: “The UK government, with the support of [the] main political parties, has rightly made clear that the UK stands together with the Israeli people at this horrendous time.”

Zahra Al-Rikabi of Brick Court Chambers, wrote in a LinkedIn post: “My social media feeds are full of binaries: I’m told that (i) unless you stand with Israel (presumably in retaliation), you’re standing with the terrorists, or (ii) if you can’t acknowledge the Palestinian people’s right to resist (presumably such resistance to include the targeting of innocent civilians) you are a coloniser, or you have a coloniser mindset.”

“The polarised posts have a great deal in common: fear, anger and gut-wrenching grief,” Al-Rikabi acknowledged, saying: “The deliberate killing of civilians is always wrong, regardless of ‘context’ and the who’s and the where’s and the what-about. And so, I reject these false binaries.”

The future of Tel Aviv Arbitration Week, a popular arbitral event internationally, was, however, confirmed by organisers, with Shai Wade of RPC saying the conference would be held as planned in March 2024.

Audley Sheppard KC of Clifford Chance, the vice president of ICCA, was announced as its prospective 2024 keynote speaker two weeks ago. Wade added: “The co-founders and the TLVAW 2024 Organising Committee commented that they are grateful for the many messages of support and expressions of solidarity that have been received.”

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