FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The ICC Must Investigate Israeli War Crimes in Gaza

by

Israel’s month-long military barrage of Gaza known as “Protective Edge” included numerous attacks on civilian-populated sites, including on homes, hospitals, mosques, markets and United Nation (UN) schools-turned-shelters. To date, Israel’s assault has killed at least 1,300 Palestinian civilians, including over 400 children, and injured more than 10,000. An estimated half a million people have been displaced. Upwards of 10,000 homes have been destroyed and countless others partially damaged. Strikes on some of the abovementioned sites have prompted international calls for officials of Israel’s government to be investigated for possible war crimes in Gaza.

Referring to the deadly July 30 attack on a UN school, the human rights organization Amnesty International argued that “If the strike on this school was the result of Israeli artillery fire it would constitute an indiscriminate attack and a likely war crime.” On August 7, citing “mounting evidence” that Israel engaged in “apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza” which “left six medics dead” and injured many more, Amnesty International called for an “immediate investigation.” The organization also published “disturbing testimonies from doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel” which detailed “harrowing” life-saving efforts of medical personnel faced with an “utterly impossible situation” of working “with bombs and bullets killing or injuring their colleagues.” Military attacks of this sort, according to Amnesty International, “are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes” and “only add to the already compelling argument that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.”

In a recent statement to the UN General Assembly, Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN Agency providing assistance and protection to five million Palestine refugees, underscored the losses suffered: “the conflict did not spare UNRWA installations and staff.” Summarizing the destruction, the Commissioner added: “Ninety of our premises have been damaged. Six of our schools were hit directly by shelling or affected by rocket fire in their immediate vicinity, with serious loss of life and injuries.” The UNRWA, explained the Commissioner, has “condemned such military actions by Israel explicitly and unreservedly” and “cannot comprehend why they occurred, and even less why they happened so repeatedly.” Moreover, the UNRWA has “asked for investigations to be carried out and for accountability.” The Commissioner acknowledged his agency had found some unused schools being used by Hamas for weapons storage. However, as a result of UNRWA inspection work and a “clear and deliberate” information sharing campaign, people on the ground as well as world governments were aware of the nature and location of these sites.

The international body tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the most serious crimes are punished is the International Criminal Court (aka “the ICC” or “the Court”). Founded in 2002 under the Rome Statute, an international treaty, and based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the ICC is an autonomous, permanent court established to investigate, prosecute and try individuals (e.g., high-level government officials) accused of crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. As of May 2013, the Rome Statute has been ratified by 122 countries, not including the United States or Israel.

According to the Court’s website, while the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals were established to prosecute the atrocities committed during World War II, many violations of international law during the 20th century went unpunished. And while the UN General Assembly proposed a permanent international court in 1948 and again after the Cold War, it was not until the 1990s that serious negotiations took place to create such a court. By this time, crimes against humanity were being committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. The Court is currently conducting investigations on crimes allegedly committed in eight states, including Sudan (for the situation in Darfur), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Libya. In addition, preliminary analyses that may lead to investigations are ongoing in eight situations, including Afghanistan, the Republic of Korea, Honduras and Nigeria.

Some have argued that the ICC does not have jurisdiction in Gaza because Palestine is not a signatory to the Roman Statute. Others believe the ICC does have jurisdiction despite this fact. In an article published by the Guardian newspaper on August 8, the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) of England and Wales outlined two main reasons why the ICC does indeed have jurisdiction in this case: “the United Nations general assembly’s decision to grant Palestine observer-state status means the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crimes” and “a 2009 declaration submitted by the Government of Palestine, accepting the jurisdiction of the court, provides the prosecutor with the jurisdictional basis to initiate an investigation.” While this approach can serve as a potential path forward for the ICC to open an investigation, the BHRC points out that it “continues strongly to encourage Palestine’s ratification of the Rome Statute as the most straightforward basis for ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory.”

Israel is already attempting to recruit supporters to stave off an ICC investigation of its leaders. Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, turned to allies in US Congress for a pledge of support. Regardless of the efforts of Israel or its closest ally, the United States, to prevent the ICC from seeking justice for the Palestinians and international aid workers killed and wounded in Gaza, the Court has a duty to at least open an investigation. The credibility of the ICC hangs in the balance. No individual who violates international law should escape justice. If Israeli officials are not investigated for possible war crimes in Gaza, then the tragic lessons learned from the last century about failures in international criminal justice and the consequences of inaction will have been in vain.

Brian J. Trautman is a military veteran, an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, and a peace activist. On Twitter @BriTraut.

 

Brian J. Trautman is an instructor of peace studies at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA, a peace activist with Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice, and an Army veteran. He is also a member of Veterans for Peace. On Twitter @BriTraut.

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail