We, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, submit this communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court concerning Ismail Haniyeh’s crimes against humanity committed through widespread and/or systematic acts of murder, imprisonment, and torture of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
On January 16, 2015, the Prosecutor began a preliminary examination into the “situation in Palestine” to determine whether a full investigation should be opened for crimes committed within the Palestinian territories. In this communication, we contend that if any full investigation is to be pursued into crimes committed in such territories or by Palestinian nationals, then a case should be lodged against Haniyeh.
Haniyeh is, and has been at all times material to this communication, a senior leader of Hamas. He has played a pivotal role in developing and enforcing Hamas’ extremist ideology and consistent human rights violations against the Gazan civilian population as well as others. As the de facto and subsequently de jure leader of Hamas, Haniyeh wielded effective control over the relevant activities in Gaza. Hamas’ interconnected command structure is such that the political, social, and military wings of the organization are intertwined, and in reality, under a common, highly-centralized leadership. Accordingly, Haniyeh knew of and was in a position to prevent the crimes against humanity that have been committed against the civilian population of Gaza; yet he has manifestly failed to do so.
The case is grave enough to merit further investigation. Haniyeh’s crimes have had and will continue to have devastating consequences on the entire population of Gaza, as well as their families and the rest of society in the surrounding region. These crimes benefit no one but the Hamas leadership. As the Hamas-dominated Gazan courts have done nothing to punish those who play a direct role in committing these crimes against humanity, there is no prospect of local justice.
Haniyeh’s crimes are not merely historical; they are ongoing and contribute to the continued conflict between Hamas and Fatah and to the instability in the region. This internal conflict within the Palestinian leadership is damaging to the Palestinian population it is supposed to represent, and it constantly diminishes any chance of peaceful coexistence with its neighbours. The ICC has the rare opportunity to take an important step not just in punishing perpetrators and deterring crimes against humanity, but also in improving Gaza’s civil society and promoting peace. For all these reasons, if any investigation is to be pursued into crimes committed in Palestine, then we respectfully urge the Office of the Prosecutor to launch a full investigation into the actions of Haniyeh.