No rules, no order
[18 October 2023] – It has been observed that for 75 years Palestinians and Israelis have been caught up in a fatal embrace of violence and injustice replaying over and over in a bitter loop. It is in just such situations, involving claim and counter-claim, that a generation scarred by war, set to work drafting agreed upon rules to guide future generations out of such darkness. No one suggested that these rules would become a cure-all panacea, but hard-won experience suggested that they maybe our best hope in an imperfect world. However, for such an ambitious idea to succeed, those in positions of responsibility have a duty to uphold and defend the rules, in all circumstances, without fear or favour.
The situation in Israel/Palestine suggests we have failed to uphold this vision. Taking just one example from MCW's mandate, to illustrate the point:
Unlawful transfer of children -
In 2023, Palestinian children continue to be unlawfully transferred out of the occupied West Bank to interrogation and detention facilities inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention
. This policy commenced in 1967 and is occurring on an industrial scale. According to data
released by the Israeli Prison Service, between 290-580 children are currently being transferred annually. Since 1967, the number of children affected ranges from 16,240 - 32,480 children. In regards to adult detainees, the numbers are staggering - exceeding 650,000 unlawful transfers since 1967. Once transferred, a significant number of these children are subjected to treatment in violation of the UN Convention against Torture (the Convention), such as prolonged solitary confinement
as part of their interrogation - with profound psychological and physical consequences. Based on 100 testimonies collected in 2021 by MCW, 42 percent of child detainees were being subjected to solitary confinement in violation of the Convention in that year alone.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (OTP-ICC) has been in possession
of evidence relating to the unlawful transfer of Palestinian children since 16 March 2015 - to date, no action has been taken in relation to this war crime
. Since 16 March 2015, a further 1,900 - 3,800 children have been transferred. By way of contrast, within 18 months of Russia unlawfully transferring "at least hundreds of children" out of occupied Ukraine, the ICC issued arrest warrants
. It should come as no surprise that there is now a perception that the International Criminal Court has been politicized and compromised - crimes appear to be pursued based on political, not legal considerations. This is not a sustainable rules-based order.
If the current prosecutor at the ICC, Mr. Karim Khan KC, is concerned about a lack of resources to investigate potential war crimes in Israel/Palestine, he should be aware that there is no dispute of fact relating to the unlawful transfer of Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank as the evidence comes from a state institution - the Israeli Prison Service - these admissions against interest require minimum investigative resources. Please Mr. Khan, do your duty. If you are unable, unwilling, or otherwise compromised, please stand aside. The peoples of the region cannot wait any longer.
And as for those states that tirelessly promote the "rules-based order" and yet actively obstruct these issues being aired in international tribunals, states such as the US
, UK (1
and others, please stop, unless it is your intention to ferment violence and distrust in the region - and potentially cause irreparable harm to the viability of the rules-based order and its institutions.