‘Sky News reported at 11.30am today – ‘Israel-Hamas war: UK could be complicit in Gaza war crimes, Tory MP warns

Sky News reported at 11.30am today – ‘Israel-Hamas war: UK could be complicit in Gaza war crimes, Tory MP warns – Crispin Blunt, who is co-director of a pro-Palestinian group, told Sky News he is not sure his colleagues in Westminster are aware of the “legal peril they are in”. He spoke as Israel faces criticism for ordering more than a million people in Gaza to leave their homes. The UK could be complicit in war crimes in Gaza and could face legal action if it does not do more to “restrain” Israel, Tory MP Crispin Blunt has warned. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) – of which Mr Blunt is co-director – announced it has written a notice of intention to prosecute UK government officials for “aiding and abetting war crimes in Gaza.” The move comes in response to Israel’s warning for 1.2 million people living in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to immediately leave their homes and move south. Mr Blunt told Sky News he is “not sure [his] colleagues have grasped the legal peril they are in” and “everyone must act to restrain people” if they know war crimes are going to happen. “If you know that a party is going to commit a war crime – and this forcible transfer of people is a precise breach of one of the statutes that governs international law and all states in this area – then you are making yourself complicit,” he said.” And as international law has developed in this area, the fact of being complicit makes you equally guilty to the party carrying out the crime.”’

Note – ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Advisory Opinion) [2004] ICJ Rep 36 paras 158-159:
‘It follows from that provision that every State party to that Convention, whether or not it is a party to a specific conflict, is under an obligation to ensure that the requirements of the instruments in question are complied with … [and] … In addition, all Sates parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 are under an obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.’

So, under international law, the UK Government is under a positive duty to ensure compliance by Israel with IHL. See also my comment about International Armed Conflicts [‘IAC‘s’] and the possibility of criminal prosecutions being brought against individuals who are either arrested in the UK or extradited to the UK, to face prosecution for War Crimes, in a trial that will take place in the UK courts.

With respect to IAC‘s – ‘all states are obliged , pursuant to the Grave Breaches provisions of the Geneva Conventions, to domestically criminalise such violations, and seek out and either extradite or prosecute those violations.’ [Oxford Handbook of International Humanitarian Law (2020), by Ben Saul & Dapo Akande (Oxford University Press), p.355].

So, if any person sets foot on UK soil who was involved in any War Crime committed during an IAC, it would appear that as an individual, they are at risk of being arrested and prosecuted in a UK court for War Crimes. That would appear to include any person, who either directly or indirectly, has been complicit in a breach of IHL which amounts to a war crime.

Therefore, if, as senior foreign policy experts in the United States have warned in the journal Foreign Affairs this week, the conflict in Gaza becomes an IAC, i.e. because it escalates into a regional conflict, then it also appears to be possible, that with the permission of a future Attorney-General, private prosecutions could be brought against any individual, who does not have diplomatic immunity, who is either arrested in the UK, or can be extradited to the UK, to face charges in a War Crimes trial that will take place in the Old Bailey.


Extract from my essay – ‘Transforming Conflict Through Humanitarian Mediation & Cultural Heritage Diplomacy’ ON THE ‘Geopolitical Challenges’ page at www.diplomaticlawguide.com

‘The International Criminal Court (‘ICC’), headquartered in the Hague, exercises a complementary jurisdiction in respect of international crimes, and may take up a case when either:
1.    a State is unable or unwilling to prosecute the suspects, which include former and serving:
1.1    heads of state;
1.2    government ministers;
1.3    public officials;
1.4    military, intelligence, and police personnel of any rank;
1.5    members of a paramilitary group; and
1.6    civilians; or
2.    the Court is requested to initiate proceedings by the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. The jurisdiction of the ICC is limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, including war crimes. The ICC also has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, which include a range of acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. … All war crimes are crimes for which there is universal jurisdiction, so that any State can prosecute them.’ 

The judicial gathering of evidence of War Crimes has already begun and is being reported by the UN to the International Criminal Court and to other judicial authorities.

‘There is already clear evidence that war crimes may have been committed in the latest explosion of violence in Israel and Gaza, and all those who have violated international law and  targeted civilians must be held accountable for their crimes, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel, said today. …

The Commission has been collecting and preserving evidence of war crimes committed by all sides since 7 October 2023, when Hamas launched a complex attack on Israel and Israeli forces responded with airstrikes in Gaza.

The Commission is gravely concerned with Israel’s latest attack on Gaza and Israel’s announcement of a complete siege on Gaza involving the withholding of water, food, electricity and fuel which will undoubtfully cost civilian lives and constitutes collective punishment.

The Commission is intent on ensuring legal accountability, including individual criminal and command responsibility. To that end, the Commission is committed to investigating current events and identifying those responsible for violations of international law on all sides, both those directly committing international crimes and those in positions of command responsibility. It will continue sharing information collected with the relevant judicial authorities, especially with the International Criminal Court, where the Office of the Prosecutor has already commenced an investigation on the situation of Palestine since 2021.

The Commission is deeply distressed by the mounting violence, and spiralling death toll and underscores the urgency for the parties involved to cease all forms of violence and ensure that civilians are protected.

The Commission urges Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups to adhere strictly to international humanitarian law and international human rights law.’ [The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights]. See:   Commission of Inquiry collecting evidence of war crimes committed by all sides in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories since 7 October 2023 | OHCHR

‘Volker Turk, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the New York Times Thursday that “the imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law.” Tom Dannenbaum, an expert on siege law at Tufts University, affirmed this assessment, describing Israel’s policy as an abnormally clear-cut instance of starving civilians as a means of war, an unambiguous violation of human rights’. See: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/10/the-u-s-is-giving-israel-permission-for-war-crimes.html#:~:text=Tom%20Dannenbaum%2C%20an%20expert%20on,unambiguous%20violation%20of%20human%20rights.