Mexico, Chile refer Israel and Hamas to ICC over possible war crimes

Mexico City and Santiago ask International Criminal Court to examine events since October 7 to establish ‘potential criminal responsibility’

Chile's President Gabriel Boric, right, gestures next to Mexico's President Manuel Lopez Obrador during joint declaration at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, September 10, 2023. (AP/Esteban Felix)
Chile's President Gabriel Boric, right, gestures next to Mexico's President Manuel Lopez Obrador during joint declaration at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, September 10, 2023. (AP/Esteban Felix)

MEXICO CITY — Mexico and Chile expressed “growing worry” on Thursday over escalating violence in the Gaza Strip after several months of war between Israel and Hamas in a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over possible crimes.

Since the October 7 terror onslaught carried out by Hamas in southern Israel and the subsequent war that Israel launched to eliminate the Gaza-ruling terror group, there has been increased international alarm and scrutiny over the mounting Palestinian death toll.

Amid the brutal violence enacted by Hamas across more than 20 communities on October 7, some 1,200 people were slaughtered, mostly civilians, and around 240 others were seized as hostages.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry has said that more than 24,000 people have been killed since the start of the war, also mostly civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified, however, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of the terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 9,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7. Almost 200 IDF soldiers have been killed in Gaza.

Israel is not a member of the Hague-based court and does not recognize its jurisdiction. But the ICC’s prosecutor has stressed his court has jurisdiction over potential war crimes carried out by Hamas terrorists in Israel and by Israelis in Gaza. The ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan made a first visit to Israel and the West Bank last month, and said a probe by the court into possible crimes by Hamas terrorists as well as the IDF “is a priority for my office.”

In a statement Thursday, Mexico’s foreign ministry said the referral “is due to the growing concern over the latest escalation of violence, particularly against civilian targets, and the alleged continued commission of crimes under the court’s jurisdiction, specifically since the October 7, 2023 attack carried out by Hamas militants and the subsequent hostilities in Gaza.”

Hamas terrorists near Kibbutz Nir Oz during the massacre on October 7, 2023. (AP/Hassan Eslaiah)

It argued that the ICC is the proper forum to establish potential criminal responsibility, “whether committed by agents of the occupying power or the occupied power.”

The statement cited “numerous reports from the United Nations that detail many incidents that could constitute crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction.”

Chile’s Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren told reporters on Thursday in Santiago that his nation was “interested in supporting the investigation into any possible war crime… whether they are war crimes committed by Israelis or by Palestinians.”

Mexico added it was closely following the International Court of Justice case presented last week in which South Africa accused Israel of carrying out genocide in Gaza and demanded that the court order an emergency suspension of Israel’s military campaign.

The South African legal team sits during hearings in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the request for provisional measures submitted by South Africa in the case South Africa v. Israel on January 11-12, 2024, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. (Courtesy International Court of Justice)

The day after South Africa presented its case to the ICJ in The Hague, Israel’s legal team attacked the fundamental claims of South Africa’s genocide allegations, which contained little mention of the Hamas-led atrocities committed on October 7, with Israel arguing that the “appalling suffering” of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, was the result of Hamas’s strategy of hiding behind innocents. Israel called the genocide allegation a malevolent “libel” and said Hamas had declared genocidal ambitions against Israel.

Referring to South Africa’s case at the ICJ, Mexico said that it “trusts that these actions… can pave the way for an immediate ceasefire and contribute to moving toward lasting peace in the region based on a solution of two states which coexist within secure and internationally recognized borders.”

Chile’s referral to the ICC is not the first time the country has been critical of Israel since the outbreak of war. On November 1, the South American country’s leftist government announced that it was recalling its ambassador to Israel for consultations, and accused the Jewish state of “unacceptable human rights violations” in the war against Hamas.

For its part, Mexico reaffirmed its ties with Israel following Chile’s decision to recall its ambassador. On November 7, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his government would not break ties with Israel or take a definitive stance on the war in Gaza.

“We, I want to say it very clearly, are not going to break off relations with Israel, nor are we going to have a position beyond seeking peace to prevent the war from continuing and moreover from spreading,” he said at a press conference at the time.

The ICC has been investigating both Israel and Hamas for alleged war crimes since 2021 and confirmed that the incidents of October 7 and the ongoing war in Gaza would be examined in the probe.

In his December 2023 visit, Khan met with families of hostages and visited the wreckage of Gaza border towns destroyed by Hamas on October 7 before stopping in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority officials.

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan visits a Gaza border town massacred by Hamas, on December 3, 2023. (Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum)

Khan said in a written statement after his visit that he witnessed “scenes of calculated cruelty” at the location of the October 7 attacks, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the 132 hostages still believed to be in Hamas captivity.

During his visit to the West Bank, Khan told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that international humanitarian law must apply amid fighting in Gaza, even as the IDF battles Hamas terrorists who are “unlawfully embedded in the civilian population.”

Israeli officials and Palestinian rights groups alike have criticized Khan and the ICC since the probe was launched in 2021, and more recently since October 7, both claiming that the international body unfairly favors the other.

Israel has slammed the probe, launched by Khan’s predecessor Fatou Bensouda, as biased, due to its start date of June 13, 2014, one day after Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank.

As a result, the probe will not look into the killing of the three teenagers, and will only examine Israel’s response.

Palestinian human rights groups refused to meet with Khan in December, declaring that he was “not handling his work in an independent and professional manner.”

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