The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, has announced that his office is investigating potential crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in response to the October 7 Hamas terror attacks. The referral to investigate the matter came from five countries—South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, and Djibouti.
Under the Rome Statute, a State Party can refer a situation to the ICC Prosecutor if crimes within the court’s jurisdiction appear to have been committed.
Khan stated that his office is already conducting an investigation into possible crimes in the Palestinian territories since June 2014, with a focus on events in Gaza and the West Bank.
This ongoing investigation, initiated in March 2021, now extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence following the October 7 attacks.
The conflict between Hamas and Israel has led to accusations of war crimes, with the death toll rising. Israeli airstrikes, aimed at Hamas commanders and infrastructure, have resulted in nearly 11,500 Palestinian casualties, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Conversely, Israel contends that its actions are in response to the October 7 attacks, which claimed 1,200 lives in Israel and saw 240 people taken hostage.
The complex international legal framework developed after World War II governs the conflict, seeking to balance humanitarian concerns with the military requirements of states.
Recent UN reports have indicated evidence of war crimes, including collective punishment, committed by Israel.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, labeled the October 7 attacks as “atrocities” and asserted that the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians by Israel amounts to a war crime.
South Africa has called for a ceasefire, accusing Israel of war crimes and highlighting the denial of essential resources to the civilian population of Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed accusations of war crimes, emphasizing the targeting of terrorists while acknowledging civilian casualties as collateral damage.
Despite not being an ICC member and rejecting the court’s jurisdiction, Israel is subject to investigation for its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories. Previous investigations by the ICC have pointed to war crimes, but no arrests were made.
Khan emphasizes that acts committed by Hamas on October 7 are considered serious violations of international humanitarian law, while also emphasizing Israel’s legal obligations outlined in the Geneva Conventions.