For the past five years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. Last week, the tables were turned when Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ) founder Calev Myers, an Israeli lawyer, filed a complaint against the outgoing Hamas leader for war crimes against not only Israelis but Palestinian citizens as well.
Ismail Haniyeh was Hamas’s leader for 10 years until a month ago when he left to become the chief policy writer for Hamas.
In 2012, the PA complained that Israel’s plan to build in disputed territory was akin to war crimes and that Israel should be brought before the ICC. Following the conflict in 2014 between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Israel, the PA has attempted to prosecute Israel at the Hague-based court a number of times. In 2015 and 2016 the Palestinian leadership of both Hamas and Fatah have asked that the court investigate alleged ongoing Israeli war crimes.
JIJ’s complaint filed at the ICC is against Haniyeh. Myers asserts that during the 2014 conflict, Haniyeh encouraged the use of Palestinian men, women and children as “human shields” while calling for ongoing rocket fire into Israeli populations. Myers claims that Haniyeh personally funded these activities, which not only violated international law but human rights as well.
During the 50-day conflict during July and August of 2014, Hamas militants fired rockets from heavily populated areas and used schools, hospitals and mosques to store weapons. These actions are tantamount to war crimes.
From JIJ’s Facebook page: The Jerusalem Institute of Justice has officially launched a legal charge of war crimes against Ismail Haniyeh, the former leader of Hamas in Gaza, for review by the International Criminal Court.
Under the leadership of Flavia Sevald, who initiated this project and spearheaded its thorough investigative process, JIJ is pursuing these charges at the ICC based on Haniyeh’s leadership and Hamas’ activities against Israelis and Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
JIJ has been actively researching, investigating and consulting compelling sources on these issues for over a year and a half, bolstered by the contributions of international legal experts. This also follows similar investigations of the Palestinian Authority and their activities in the West Bank.
The principle allegations establishing the charge of war crimes are, firstly, Hamas’ widespread and systematic use of human shields to protect their inventory, infrastructure and personnel, while purposefully placing civilians in harm’s way. Secondly, Hamas stored (and continues to store) weapons and ammunition in civilian homes, schools and hospitals as part of their terrorist strategy.
This initiative is particularly timely considering the fact that Haniyeh is now in line to replace Khaled Mashal as head of the Hamas Politburo after over a decade of leading Hamas in Gaza.
Ultimately, in the words of Calev Michael Myers, the founder of JIJ, this initiative aims “to speak in the name of those who can’t raise their voice, because they are trapped under the dictatorial regime of the Hamas, led by Ismail Haniyeh.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an intergovernmental, independent judicial body that investigates genocide and war crimes. Located in the Netherlands, the United Nations-affiliated ICC was officially established in 2002 and has 124 participating countries. Since November 2012, the “State of Palestine” has had non-Member Observer State status. The Holy See, also a non-state, has Observer State status as well.
The Jerusalem Institute for Justice manages various civil justice and Israel-advocacy projects both locally and internationally. The JIJ also fights against prostitution and human trafficking in Israel, gives legal support to Holocaust survivors and advocates for lone soldiers.