Lawmakers in Gaza file complaint against Israel’s siege on Gaza at the ICC

Tareq S. Hajjaj

Mondoweiss  /  June 29, 2023

Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza have lodged a complaint to the International Criminal Court protesting Israeli crimes against humanity resulting from the 17-year-long Gaza siege.

Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza (PLC) held a press conference on Monday, June 26, to announce that they had filed a complaint to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the Gaza humanitarian crisis, which continued as a direct result of the 17-year-long Israeli blockade on Gaza. 

The complaint focused on Israeli crimes against humanity resulting from the siege, including the damage it has done to the health, environment, living conditions, economy, and social life of over two million people in Gaza. 

The PLC members asserted that the ongoing siege constitutes a crime against humanity, a violation of the Rome Statute, and a crime of apartheid. The PLC is the Palestinian Authority’s legislature and comprises 132 members elected by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The last PLC elections were held in 2006, and the legislature was suspended in 2007 following the Hamas-Fatah split.

“The International Criminal Court, and in reference to its principles and laws, holds the responsibility to bring justice to the Palestinian people and to stop ongoing Israeli terror and crimes committed against them,” the head of PLC in Gaza, Ahmed Bahar, said. He called on the ICC for immediate intervention and to force the occupation to end its siege on Gaza. 

Bahar also referred to the ICC’s delay in responding to the PLC complaint, which is tantamount to encouraging the occupation to continue committing its crimes against the Palestinians, and constitutes a disregard for the Rome Statute and principles of International Humanitarian Law upon which the ICC is based.

The complaint included demands for reparations for Palestinians in Gaza, which based on a UN report estimating the direct economic losses resulting from the siege, is in the order of $16.7 billion from 2007 to 2018. Since then, these losses have increased to $25 billion. 

Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015 and have filed dozens of complaints against Israel since that time. In 2019, the ICC persecutor Fatou Bensouda said that the court would open a comprehensive investigation on the Palestinian territories over war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. 

Palestinians welcomed this decision, but actual steps on the ground have yet to be taken. 

Resistance, not negotiations

Palestinians regard the ICC’s hitherto ineffectual role on Palestine as a sign of Israel’s influence over the U.S. and European countries, who are allied with Israel or are afraid to hold it accountable for fear of being labeled antisemitic.

“The ICC is buckling under the pressure of the international community, which supports Israel,”  Mahmoud al-Zahar, a PLC member and one of the founders of Hamas, told Mondoweiss. “It is known that the U.S. and Europe are able to activate or deactivate the ICC, yet they avoid getting into a confrontation with Israel, fearing being accused of racism against Jews. These countries, therefore, think it wise to simply not engage in action against Israel. But if humanity’s conscience were alive, the decision to hold the occupation to account would be taken, even if it led to tensions between Israel and the world’s countries,” he added.

The Hamas leader and PLC representative said there must be an international agreement to fulfill the Palestinian people’s rights and take real steps to criminalize Israel for violating all human rights and committing crimes against humanity. 

While Al-Zahar welcomes the legal steps taken by the PLC in Gaza at the ICC, he believes that ending the siege will only come about with more resistance. 

“It is clear that the occupier did not withdraw from Gaza through international law or negotiations. The resistance kicked them out of Gaza, and more resistance will end the siege,” he told Mondoweiss.

Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of the Palestinian Writers Union