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Posted: Saturday 11 November, 2023 at 1:17 PM

Palestinian human rights groups file lawsuit at ICC against Israel

By: Stanford Conway,

    …includes war crimes in Gaza, arrest warrants for Israel’s leaders


    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - AS the war between Israel and Hamas rages on, three Palestinian human rights organisations have filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel.


    According to AL Jazeera, the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday (Nov. 8) by Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, urging the ICC to investigate Israel for “apartheid” as well as “genocide” and issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders.


    The claimants are calling for “urgent attention to the continuous barrage of Israeli airstrikes on densely populated civilian areas within the Gaza Strip”, which have killed more than 10,500 Palestinians, almost half of them children, according to Gaza health officials.


    The document is also asking the ICC to expand its ongoing war crimes investigation by looking into “the suffocating siege imposed on [Gaza], the forced displacement of its population, the use of toxic gas, and the denial of necessities, such as food, water, fuel, and electricity”. These acts amount to “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, including “genocide”, the lawsuit said.


    Al Jazeera also stated that the three groups want arrest warrants to be issued against Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.


    It further stated that the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) had opened an official investigation into the situation in Palestine in 2021 after determining that “war crimes have been or are being committed by Palestinian and Israeli actors in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.


    That group had faced criticism from human rights groups and activists who said its response to ongoing Israeli attacks in Gaza have been tepid. 


    Al Jazeera noted that in the latest ICC filing, the rights groups’ lawyer, Emmanuel Daoud, referenced the ICC’s ruling against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine, and said there was “no room for double standards in international justice”.


    “Whether war crimes are committed in Ukraine or Palestine, the culprits should be held to account,” the media house quoted Daoud as saying. 


    It also noted that this is not the first time a file against Israel was brought to the ICC during its one-month war in Gaza. 


    “On October 31, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) submitted a complaint to the body alleging Israel had perpetrated war crimes against journalists in Gaza,” according to Al Jazeera, noted that according to figures from press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists, as of Thursday (Nov. 9), Israeli attacks had killed at least 39 journalists since October 7, 34 of whom were Palestinian, four Israelis and one Lebanese.


    ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan had pointed to additional possible crimes when he visited Egypt’s Rafah border crosstatesing on October 29, saying impeding humanitarian aid from reaching civilians could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute.  


    “There should not be any impediment to humanitarian relief supplies going to children, to women and men, civilians. They are innocent, they have rights under international humanitarian law. These rights are part of the Geneva Conventions, and they give rise to even criminal responsibility when these rights are curtailed under the Rome Statute,” Al Jazeera quoted Khan as saying.


    Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, had previously rejected the court’s jurisdiction and does not formally engage with the court. 


    The ICC’s founding Rome Statute gives it legal authority to investigate alleged crimes on the territory of its members or by their nationals when domestic authorities are “unwilling or unable” to do so. 


    From that backdrop, the office of the prosecutor of the ICC on October 10 said its mandate applies to potential crimes committed in the current conflict.


    The fued between Israel and Palestine is decades old, but the current war began on the early morn of Saturday (Oct. 7) when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from air, land and sea, which resulted in the death of at least 1,400 people, (including women and children), injuries to 3,400 others and approximately 240 people taken as captives, according to Israeli authorities.


    Since then, Israel retaliated by launching airstrikes and ground offensive on Gaza, vowing to eliminate the Hamas group.


    The devastation of Israel attacks have so far resulted in more than 10,000 people killed, including more than 4,100 children and 2,600 women, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.


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