International Criminal Court

Malaysian lawyers submit to ICC evidence of Israel ‘war crimes’

Lian Buan

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Malaysian lawyers submit to ICC evidence of Israel ‘war crimes’

MALAYSIAN SUBMISSION. Malaysian human rights group MyAqsa Foundation submits evidence to the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands on November 22, 2023, seeking an arrest warrant against Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo courtesy of MyAqsa Foundation

In its submission to the International Criminal Court, MyAqsa Foundation Malaysia compiles 52 pages worth of 'procedural history, relevant legal frameworks and a detailed chronicle of the atrocities' it says were committed by Israel

MANILA, Philippines – A Malaysian human rights group submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Wednesday, November 22, as part of a campaign to expedite the prosecutor’s investigation into the alleged war crimes in Palestine in context of the latest war where Israel’s bombardment had killed more than 13,000 in the Gaza strip.

The Rome Statute, the treaty governing the ICC, allows third parties to submit evidence to the prosecutor. The investigation opened in March 2021 to determine whether Israel committed war crimes in its occupation of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, since June 2014. Different human rights groups have documented human rights abuses in occupied Palestine territories, and have called Israel’s governance over these areas as apartheid.

Since the latest war broke out on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has conducted airstrikes mostly in the Gaza strip, not sparing a refugee camp and hospitals.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan had gone to the Rafah crossing in Egypt to commit “justice in action” and had confirmed that the investigation would now cover the latest war, but that it would also include possible war crimes committed by Hamas.

In the submission of MyAqsa Foundation Malaysia, the human rights lawyers and activists compiled 52 pages worth of “procedural history, relevant legal frameworks and a detailed chronicle of the atrocities” committed by Israel, with a focus on the attacks on al-Shifa Hospital, al-Quds Hospital, Indonesia Hospital and the al-Ahl Hospital in Gaza.

“Despite the overwhelming public evidence of various henious war crimes being committed by Israel, MyAqsa wishes to express its disappointment with the ICC for its failure to proceed with the indictment of Benyamin Netanyahu after more than a month of Israelis’ genocidal attacks that saw the deaths of more than 13,000 children and civilians,” said the press statement sent by the MyAqsa team.

Malaysia has a long history of supporting Palestine’s cause. It does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Both Palestine and Malaysia are state parties or members of the ICC, while Israel is not. Khan had reiterated that their jurisdiction covers potential crimes committed by Israeli actors if it happened in Palestine, which is a state party. Same goes for crimes committed in Israel if they are committed by Palestinian actors such as Hamas.

Comparison to Russia

The pace by which international bodies are moving to hold Israel accountable for the bombing of Palestine territories has often been compared to how swiftly they moved against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. ICC opened its investigation into the Ukraine invasion in March 2022 and by March 2023, the pre-trial chamber already issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for illegal deportation of children.

“With the submission of this complaint petition, MyAqsa Foundation truly believes that there are more than reasonable grounds for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the accused individual,” said the MyAqsa submission.

It added: “ICC must be seen to act without fear or favor. It has acted expeditiously before, with less compelling public evidence in past atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza.”

Although any warrant or order by the ICC would not be enforced without the cooperation of Israel, or other countries whether they are members or not, court rulings can be leveraged to put pressure or isolate a country. Israel and its allies have so far refused to agree to a ceasefire, saying yes tentatively only to “humanitarian pauses” or several hours of stopping firing. Humanitarian groups have repeatedly condemned the “humanitarian pause” as being not nearly sufficient to save lives and ease suffering of people in Gaza.

The United Nations has been under pressure to strengthen its rhetoric and action against Israel, but the Secretary General has stopped short of calling the situation as genocide saying they are not of legal authority to designate a situation as one. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called Gaza “a graveyard of children,” while the High Commissioner on Human Rights Volker Türk called Israel’s attacks “disproportionate” and the blockade of aid as “collective punishment,” which are all references to a violation of international law without directly saying so.

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.