Lawyers say Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza constitute genocide and call on the West to refrain from supporting the crimes.
A group of lawyers representing Palestinian victims of Israeli attacks on Gaza filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), arguing that Israel’s actions constitute a crime of genocide.
Gilles Devers, a veteran French lawyer and victims’ representative before the ICC, filed the complaint with the prosecutor on Monday as part of a four-person delegation in the Dutch city of The Hague.
The civil society initiative could lead to the issuance of arrest warrants against senior Israeli politicians, including the Prime Minister. Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It is clear to me that there are all the criteria for the crime of genocide,” Devers told Al Jazeera, adding that cases such as those in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda set the precedent against which the complaint was filed.
“So it’s not my opinion, it’s the reality of the law.”
Israel has made no attempt to hide the hallmarks of the genocide, the group argued, by cutting off food and electricity to Gaza, attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure, and using dehumanizing rhetoric that compares people to “animals“.
The group also collected testimonies from Palestinian victims whom they legally represent in court.
Faced with growing allegations of serious war crimes committed in Gaza, Devers said governments that do not wish to be found complicit should refrain from supporting Israel.
“Governments must choose which side they are on whether they support human rights or genocide. They cannot give speeches on international law and human rights and then accept the Israeli attack without doing anything,” he said.
Israel does not recognize the ICC, but Devers said that does not make the court ineffective.
In 2021, the ICC ruled that it had jurisdiction over serious crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories, including potential war crimes committed by any party on the ground.
The initiative led by Devers is one of a number of trials presented to the ICC in recent weeks.
November 9 three Palestinian human rights groups urged the body to investigate Israel for “apartheid” as well as “genocide” and issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders.
#JusticeForGaza, another initiative, aims to bring together diverse voices from international civil society, political leaders and representatives to petition the court. Prominent European politicians who have defended Palestinian rights, including Spaniard Ione Belarra and Great Britain Jeremy Corbynare among the more than 80 signatories of this petition.
Devers said the latest bombing of Gaza was the most serious crime the court had seen in decades.
“If the ICC does nothing, then it’s the end of the ICC,” he said. “We have sufficient evidence to warrant an arrest warrant for Mr. Netanyahu,” Devers said.
In March, the ICC published a arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged involvement in war crimes in Ukraine. Although Putin rejected the verdict and did not submit to the court’s jurisdiction, the decision was a symbolic moment and limited the Russian leader’s ability to travel abroad, including to attend international forums.