Canada must allow the ICC-ICJ to investigate war crimes in Palestine-Israel: CJPME

Montreal, October 11, 2023Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) calls on the Trudeau government to refer violations of international law in Palestine-Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly have made reference to international law in their statements and Tweets since Saturday, noting that the actions of all parties must be “in accordance with international law. With mounting evidence of egregious violations of the Fourth Geneva Conventions committed by both Hamas and the Israeli military in recent days, Canada must push for full accountability for any violations by all of the parties involved. As of this afternoon, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, including at least 290 children, while 1,200 Israelis have been killed in the attack by Hamas.

“Canada cannot give Israel a blank check to disproportionally retaliate in Gaza.,” asserted Thomas Woodley, president of CJPME. “The ICJ and ICC each have the highest formal role to play in holding countries, armed groups, and their leaders accountable. Canada must ensure the rules are for everyone, friend or foe.”  CJPME points out that Hamas’ Saturday violent attacks on civilians and its taking of hostages were horrific violations of international law. Since then, Israel has responded by indiscriminately bombing civilian targets in the Gaza Strip and imposing a ‘total siege’ on the civilian population, including shutting off access to food, water and fuel – clear crimes under international law.  CJPME has long called for Canada to allow the ICJ and ICC to investigate and prosecute all parties who have committed war crimes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The ICJ focuses on disputes between countries, and was asked earlier this year to deliver an advisory opinion on 1) the legal consequences of Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian land, and 2) the legal status of Israel’s occupation, given its prolonged and indefinite nature. The ICC, for its part, investigates the culpability of individual leaders in the commission of war crimes.  In 2021, at the behest of the Palestinian Authority, the ICC launched an investigation into Israel’s 50-day military offensive against Gaza in 2014, when Israel killed over 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children. The investigation was to include possible war crimes by all sides, whether authorized by Israeli or Palestinian leaders. Earlier this week, the ICC prosecutor announced that its mandate applies to current hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Unfortunately, to the disappointment of many Canadians, in each of the two cases mentioned above, Canada opposed the investigations. With the ICC, the Trudeau government asserted that because Palestine was not recognized as a UN state, the court has no jurisdiction to pursue investigations.  The ICC disagreed with this position, and proceeded with the case.  In its letter concerning the ICJ investigation, the Trudeau government argued that the conflict was under the purview of the UN Security Council, and that the ICJ shouldn’t get involved. In a press conference earlier today, foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly asked if Israel’s ‘total siege’ and blockade of Gaza was consistent with international law, but she refused to provide an answer.

“Now, more than ever, Canada should support the leading role of the ICJ and ICC in providing justice for victims of war crimes,” said Woodley.  “With the recent outrageous crimes by both Hamas and Israel, Canada can no longer dismiss the need to have legal experts investigate the crimes, render their decisions, and hold the guilty accountable,” concluded Woodley. CJPME’s call for ICJ and ICC involvement follows previous calls for a ceasefire and de-escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. CJPME has encouraged Canada to take these steps to protect civilian lives, and facilitate long term solutions to the conflict, including an end to Israel’s military occupation, blockade, and apartheid practices. 

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact: Michael Bueckert, VP CJPME: 613-315-7947 or [email protected].

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

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