The open letter below was sent by the signatories below to the Foreign Affairs Minister of the following countries: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Poland, Italy, Greece, Germany, Malta, Ireland and Luxembourg.
Dear Foreign Affairs Minister,
As of January 29, the Israeli war against Palestinian people in Gaza has entered its 115h day, with over 27.000 Palestinians in Gaza killed and 63.000 injured. This number represents a total of 4% of the entire Gaza population. Since October 7th, 2023, the number of average civilian killings per day in Gaza exceeds that of any 21st-century conflict, with around 70% of them women and children. Since the beginning of the attacks, Israel has targeted civilian areas to the point that “nowhere in Gaza is considered safe”, with refugee camps, hospitals, schools and mosques being the target of the bombardment. Over 85% of Palestinians in Gaza have been internally displaced and 60% of all available housing in Gaza has been destroyed or damaged. This violent siege takes place under a context of 57 years of military occupation of the Palestinian territories and 17 years of blockade of the Gaza Strip.
South Africa initiated, in accordance with Article IX of the Genocide Convention, proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the responsibility of Israel for genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This principled move is important for accountability and the restoration of the international legal order. On 11 January, the South African legal team presented their arguments in front of the ICJ, describing how Israel may be plausibly accused of committing the proscribed conducts under Article 2 of the Convention and requesting preliminary measures to stop the killing and forced displacement of Palestinians. The day after, Israel appeared before the court to rebut these arguments, claiming that the elements of the crime of genocide were not fulfilled.
On January 26 the ICJ in a landmark ruling determined the plausibility that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The provisional measures include that Israel will take measures to prevent genocidal acts, that Israel will prevent and punish incitement to commit genocide, that Israel will ensure the provision of immediate humanitarian aid to Gaza and that Israel will ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of genocide. Additionally, Israel was ordered to report back to the Court within a month on its implementation of the provisional measures.
Although this is a momentous move with the aim of ensuring that Israel faces international accountability, the EU and member states’ answer has been unsatisfactory. Not enough European states have declared their intention to adhere to the legal obligations instituted by the provisional measures or ensure that Israel applies them, although the ICJ is one of the few credible, legitimate, and neutral international tools of accountability and a mechanism to ensure the rule of law in international relations.
European reaction was further complicated by the decision of several EU states to suspend funds to UNRWA after accusations that 12 of their staff members might have participated in the attacks of October 7. UNRWA is one of the most important organizations providing relief to Palestinians in Gaza, and its defunding aggravates the current humanitarian crisis, where 500.000 Palestinians are currently at risk of starvation due to the Israeli siege. Defunding by States, in this case, could amount to participation in genocidal acts including that of “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”, as stated in the Genocide Convention.
The comparison with the wide support given by EU member states to the preliminary rulings of the ICJ in the context of the wars in Ukraine and in Myanmar have not escaped Palestinian eyes. The difference in treatment between Ukraine and Palestine has led many to note that Europe is operating with a clear double standard concerning the application of the Genocide Convention.
If European states and the EU continue to make so little use of these avenues of accountability, it risks isolating itself on the world stage and losing its position as an international guarantor of human rights and international law. European states should remember their colonial past, those who were colonisers and those who were colonised, and their history with genocide and settler colonialism, reacting accordingly and ensuring that “never again” doesn’t remain an empty slogan.
The EU and its Member States must ensure and publicly affirm that Israel complies with the Court’s provisional measures order, as they are binding under international law. It must also ensure that international accountability is implemented in all cases where said measures are violated by the state of Israel. Furthermore, the EU and its member states must call for a ceasefire to ensure that no genocidal acts might be committed by the state of Israel and ensure that they do not cooperate on potential genocidal acts by suspending arms trade with Israel. Finally, as mentioned by the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories Francesca Albanese, European states that have suspended their funding to UNRWA must resume and increase their funding to the organization lest they might risk being complicit with genocidal acts.
EuroMed Rights and the undersigned believe that it is of utmost importance that the EU Member states and the EU itself publicly support and ensure the respect to the Provisional Measures ruling by the ICJ on the ongoing open case on genocide in Palestine, reaffirming the role of the Court as a neutral, legitimate, and respected mechanism of international accountability, and submit written statements to the ICJ, providing its legal expertise in the proper interpretation of the convention when the opportunity arises.
- The Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling – WCLAC
- The Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights – JLAC
- Palestinian Human Rights Organization – PHRO
- Kayan Feminist Organization
- The Palestinian Center for Human Rights – PCHR
- International Institute for Non-Violent Action – NOVACT
- European Trade Union Network for Justice in Palestine
- European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine – ECCP
- Association France Palestine Solidarite – AFPS
- EuroMed Rights