PM warned of war crime charges over Gaza
The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has warned PM Rishi Sunak that UK officials may face individual liability for aiding potential Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
The independent group of lawyers, academics and politicians protecting Palestinian rights issued a letter to the PM on the UK providing "military, economic and political support to Israel, which has aided Israel's perpetration of war crimes".
According to Palestinian health officials, Israel's week-long bombing of Gaza has killed at least 2,215 Palestinians. Among the dead are 724 children and 458 women. Israeli forces have also killed 54 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank over the same period.
The ICJP stated Israel's attempt to forcibly transfer over one million Gazans from northern to southern areas in under 24 hours could amount to both "a war crime and a crime against humanity".
"The siege of Gaza, restricting electricity, food, water and other basic necessities, constitutes collective punishment, which is also a war crime under the Geneva Convention," it said.
The UK government has provided military assistance and economic and political support to Israel.
"Now that war crimes have been carried out, continuation of such support and assistance would mean that UK government officials would be complicit in the commission of war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity,” it added.
The ICJP has sent the letter to Scotland Yard's War Crimes Unit, which has opened calls for evidence relating to war crimes in the region.
The recent war began on October 7th when Hamas launched a raid on Israel, resulting in the deaths of around 1,300 Israelis.
The UK government has said that it supports Israel's "right to defend itself and to take action against terrorism."
Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, the co-director of ICJP, said on the BBC: “I’m uncertain that they fully understand the developments of international law, whereby if you’re encouraging a party to undertake a war crime, you become complicit in that crime itself.”
“It’s becoming absolutely clear now that what is happening in Gaza does amount to a war crime.”
Government on notice
As well as the PM, the letter was addressed to the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Attorney General Victoria Prentis.
“We put the Government on notice that we intend to bring legal proceedings against politicians in the UK and elsewhere where there is evidence that they have aided, abetted or in any other way supported, encouraged or provided material assistance in the commission of a war crime," reads the letter.
"In light of the catastrophic situation currently unfolding in Gaza, and clear evidence that Israel has committed war crimes and is on the verge of committing mass atrocity crimes in Gaza, this letter is provided to the UK Government in order to emphasise that under international criminal law and its jurisprudence on individual criminal responsibility, support provided to perpetrators of international crimes can be investigated and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court and Third States under the principles of Universal Jurisdiction,” it added.
The letter says actions taken by Israel since 7 October have already been reported as constituting “serious breaches of international criminal law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”
The letter gives examples:
- Attacks disproportionately killing and injuring Gaza civilians of all ages, including over 500 children in 6 days
- Entire residential buildings levelled, killing all inside
- Credible reports of illegal white phosphorus use against civilians in Gaza
- Reports of whole families across generations killed
- Decades of documented abuses and international crimes committed under Israel’s military occupation
“The withholding of food, water and other basic necessities from civilian populations during international armed conflicts is expressly forbidden under IHL and amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” says the letter.
“To this, it is unacceptable that the UK Government has not only continued to express support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, but has also provided military assistance and economic support,” it adds.