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Good morning, this is Kasmira. As the war in Gaza intensifies, so does the prospect of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with all eyes on the International Criminal Court to see how it will respond, as Alain Werner of Civitas Maxima writes below in our monthly round-up of international justice news.

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Kasmira Jefford


War crimes round-up

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In 2021, judges ruled that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has the jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in Palestine since June 2014. (ICC)

Geneva Solutions’s monthly “war criminal hunt” in collaboration with the Geneva-based NGO Civitas Maxima.

⚖️ International justice faces daunting challenges on Gaza. As the war in Gaza escalates and the number of civilian casualties increases by the day, those of us who work in the field of international criminal justice can only wonder if, where, and when the war crimes that are being and have been committed will ever be prosecuted.

In view of the explosive political nature of the situation, it seems likely that any country where a legal case were to be initiated by a national court under the principle of universal jurisdiction would face immense political pressure. In 2002, cases in Belgium against former Israeli and Palestinian leaders Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat led nowhere and strained relations between Israel and Belgium. In a case against former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni in the United Kingdom, Israel heavily criticised the move despite the arrest warrant being quickly revoked.

As often, all eyes will be on the International Criminal Court (ICC). In 2021, judges ruled that the court has the jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in Palestine since June 2014, and just a few days ago, the ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan, stated that this mandate applies to current recent events.For that to happen, his office must first finalise its own assessment as to whether local possibilities to sanction and hold accountable alleged perpetrators exist in Israel or in Palestine. According to its statute, the ICC can only pursue a case if a given domestic justice system is either unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute international crimes.

It will also depend on whether the ICC has enough resources to navigate the situation under investigation in Palestine. In March 2023, before the recent escalation, 22 United Nations special rapporteurs, seven members of UN working groups and other UN experts wrote to the ICC Prosecutor calling for increased resources for the investigation. This came at a time when additional resources were allocated to the ICC by its state members at the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) at the end of 2022, in large part because of the war in Ukraine.

The ASP’s 123 member states will reconvene in New York from 4 to 14 December to decide on the ICC’s budget for 2024. One can only hope that they will send a strong message to the victims – current and past – of the crimes committed by Israel and Hamas. Every violation of the Geneva Convention deserves international justice and not only in cases welcomed for political reasons. The ASP should ensure that the only permanent international criminal court that we have has enough means to effectively do its work and to have a real impact on the rule of law.

- Alain Werner, director, Civitas Maxima

Read October's full round-up of international justice news on Geneva Solutions🌐

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