Geneva - Expressing profound concern about the inability of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to carry out its mandate, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor warned that this will cause irreversible harm the rights of the Palestinian people. The rights group also said that the entire process of establishing justice with regard to the situation in Palestine—particularly in relation to the crime of genocide that Israel has been committing in the Gaza Strip on a daily basis for five months now—is in danger of failing unless taken seriously by the ICC.

Euro-Med Monitor highlighted the dire need for the ICC to treat Israel’s crime of genocide in the Gaza Strip with the highest degree of seriousness, which should consequently prompt the majority of United Nations and international institutions and experts to pressure Israel to end its assault on the Strip. The suspicion of the  occurrence of this genocide has already been confirmed by the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice.

The human rights organisation raised deep concerns about the ICC Prosecutor’s commitment, specifically to the standards of integrity, professionalism, neutrality, independence, non-discrimination, and impartiality, in his work on the case file. Euro-Med Monitor also expressed concerns over the impact of his actions on the ICC’s ability to carry out fair, efficient, and timely investigations and trials, to achieve complete justice for the victims of Palestine, and to hold accountable and prosecute those who have committed international crimes.

Perpetrators in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) continue to act with complete historical immunity from punishment or accountability from any party, and the international community as a whole has failed over the years to prove otherwise. According to Euro-Med Monitor, there are evident disparities in the way cases submitted to the ICC are handled, particularly when contrasting the approach taken to address the Palestinian situation with that of the Ukrainian crisis.

The ICC issued arrest warrants yesterday for two Russian officers who are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. This brings the total number of arrest warrants the ICC has issued in the case of Ukraine to four. One of these warrants is for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was issued just a year after the investigation into the situation in Ukraine began—which itself began less than a month after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine started in 2022.

Euro-Med Monitor is closely monitoring the proceedings of the ICC, which issued the two arrest warrants yesterday against the aforementioned Russian officers on suspicion that they were behind the airbourne military attacks targeting several power generation stations and substations throughout Ukraine. The ICC found that these attacks were deliberate assaults against civilian targets and resulted in excessive collateral damage to civilians and civilian property, in total disregard for the principles of proportionality and military necessity. In accordance with the Rome Statute, the ICC determined that these two acts were war crimes. Taking into consideration the fact that the Statute’s definition of “inhumane acts” constitutes a crime against humanity, the ICC determined that these airstrikes caused significant suffering to Ukrainians.

Israel has not only demolished several power plants in the Gaza Strip, said Euro-Med Monitor, but has also caused extensive damage to over two-thirds of civilian property and objects, including the majority of the Strip’s electrical infrastructure, since the Israeli military assault began. All of this has happened without any justification or regard for international legal principles or regulations.

Euro-Med Monitor contended that the crimes committed by Israel have gone far beyond the destruction of civilian infrastructure and property. These crimes have destroyed the lives of the Gaza Strip’s entire population, effectively annihilating Gazans through acts of genocide including mass and deliberate killing; the deliberate and indiscriminate targeting of civilians, including thousands of women and children; starvation; deprivation of basic materials; forced transfer and displacement; the cutting off of water and electricity; denial of medical treatment; comprehensive illegal blockade; obstruction of relief supplies; the destruction of cultural, historical, and religious objects, as well as of hospitals, none of which are military objectives by any means; arbitrary arrest; enforced disappearance; torture; inhuman treatment; rape; looting of property; and use of prohibited weapons.

These violations, which pose a serious threat to global security and injure the human race as a whole, are all classified as crimes under the Rome Statute and should be punished accordingly. In this regard, Euro-Med recalls that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 26 January rendered a ruling in which it acknowledged that there was a plausible suspicion that Israel is acting contrary to its obligations in terms of the Genocide Convention in carrying out its military operations against the Gaza Strip since 7 October 2023. The ICJ ordered Israel to take all possible measures to shield the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and prevent the crime of genocide against them.

Except for providing a report to the ICJ one month after the ruling date, Israel has not committed to putting these preventive measures into effect, and is still committing genocide in the Gaza Strip at the same rate as before the ruling.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasised that, generally, the ICC has dealt with the situation in Palestine from the beginning with repeated and unjustified delays and procrastination. The rights organisation reiterated that the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted the ICC to open an investigation within less than a month, while it took over six years for the ICC to finally announce the opening of an investigation into the situation in Palestine on 3 March 2021. (This was after the State of Palestine announced on 1 January 2015 that it accepted the Court’s jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and that it had submitted a referral to the Court to investigate these crimes on 13 June 2014.)

Euro-Med Monitor added that, following Fatou Bensouda’s announcement on 3 March 2021 that an investigation into the State of Palestine would be launched, her tenure as the ICC’s Prosecutor ended abruptly. Three months later, Karim Khan assumed the role of Public Prosecutor. Since then, despite the passage of more than three years since the official announcement that an investigation would begin, and despite the passage of five months since the most serious war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression against the Gaza Strip have been committed in full view of the Court, its Prosecutor, and the entire world, the case file has not seen any significant development.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor stressed its grave concern over the International Criminal Court’s lack of effective response to Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, ongoing since last October, and its failure to take any concrete steps to stop the situation in Palestine from getting worse or to stop Israel from committing any more crimes that fall under its purview.

Euro-Med Monitor further condemned the remarks and actions of the ICC’s Prosecutor, including at his 29 October press conference in Cairo and his visit to Israel to meet with Israeli families, without extending the same courtesy to Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip. Khan was able to visit the West Bank at this time, stated the rights group, and numerous national and international organisations had asked him to meet with Palestinian families in Gaza.

The Public Prosecutor’s language during the conference in Cairo, as well as his statement about his visit to Israel and to Palestine’s West Bank afterwards, as opposed to the Gaza Strip, demonstrates his blatant bias towards the Israeli narrative. This undermines and casts doubt on the credibility of the investigations that should be conducted in the Palestine case in accordance with the standards of impartiality, professionalism, independence, impartiality, and non-discrimination, which are required to be adhered to at all stages of the Court’s work as stipulated in the Rome Statute, the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Court, and the Code of Conduct of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Court, under penalty of dismissal. Euro-Med Monitor urged the Prosecutor not to take unfair advantage of his powerful position, particularly with so many lives at stake.

In light of the aforementioned, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor demands that the Presidium of the International Criminal Court and the Assembly of States Parties to the Court take the following actions in order to safeguard international peace and security, prevent real harm to the Palestinian people, and restore the integrity and status of the International Criminal Court:
- Hold an urgent session to inspect, audit, and investigate the International Criminal Court's performance regarding the situation in Palestine and take all necessary objective, administrative, and financial measures to strengthen the Court's work in this file, given the gravity of the crimes committed in Palestine in general and in the Gaza Strip in particular.
- Investigating the Pre-Trial Chamber and the Office of the Prosecutor of the Court's performance in the Palestine case file, as well as uncovering the true causes of the inaction and unwarranted delay in starting the investigation into the situation there, as well as the repeated delays in reaching a decision despite the court's recognition of its jurisdiction to consider it, grant it admissibility, and formally begin an investigation into it over three years ago.
- Open an efficient and prompt investigation into the ICC's Prosecutor’s actions and adherence to the principles of independence, impartiality, professionalism, non-discrimination, and impartiality while carrying out his responsibilities and utilizing his authority in the Palestine case file.
- ​Removal of anyone proven to have engaged in gross misconduct, to have flagrantly violated his duties, or to be unable for any reason to carry out the duties expected of him, in line with the provisions of Article (46) of the Rome Statute, including the Public Prosecutor and any one of the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber.