We share the text written by Professor Nicolás Boeglin, from the Law School of the University of Costa Rica. Original title: “Gaza / Israel: regarding the announcement of the joint referral of Mexico and Chile to the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

In a statement released on January 18, 2024, Mexico announced that it has proceeded, jointly with Chile, to refer the situation in Gaza to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), for possible crimes duly typified in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of 1998. (See full text  of the Statute).

Article 14 of this multilateral instrument empowers any State Party to refer any situation that may be of interest to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, by specifying that:

Mexico has been a State Party to the Rome Statute since October 2005. Chile has been a State Party since June 2009. The State of Palestine has been formally a State Party since January 2015.

In Latin America, Venezuela was the first State in the region to ratify the Rome Statute in June 2000. The last State to have ratified it is Guatemala (April 2012), while neither Cuba nor Nicaragua have signed it.

Brief Background

As is well known, the ICC (see its official website) is an international jurisdiction created in 1998 and became operational in March 2003, following the Rome Statute’s entry into force in 2002. It is authorized to establish the criminal responsibility of individuals who, in the exercise of their functions, instigated, ordered or committed acts considered particularly serious, such as: genocide (Article 6 of the Rome Statute), crimes against humanity (Article 7), and war crimes (Article 8).

On February 5, 2021, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber adopted a historic decision (see full text) declaring the ICC perfectly competent to investigate what is happening in the entire Palestinian territory, without any exception of any kind.

In its conclusion it can be read (page 60) that:

As has become customary when dealing with Palestine, this ICC decision was little publicized in the mainstream media. Regarding its scope, see a brief analysis carried out by us, following a campaign at the highest level in Israel to discredit it (Note 1).

It is worth noting that the United States felt compelled to immediately disqualify this preliminary decision of the ICC (see official statement), confirming – perhaps unintentionally – the deep fears that the very existence of the ICC means for Israel in relation to its various operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (Note 2).

In this official link of the ICC you can find, in addition to the aforementioned decision, various news of the “Palestine” file currently in progress.

Mexico And Chile Statements In Brief

In the statement issued by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 18 (see full text at the end of this note as source material), it is read that Mexico informs that:

The text of Mexico’s statement also points out that:

For its own part, in its statement (the text of which is included at the end of these thoughts), Chile indicates that:

Israel, The United States And The ICC: The Story Of A Fear Come True

What is not said in both statements is that the ICC has jurisdiction to examine all acts of concern to the Office of the Prosecutor committed within Palestinian territory, whether committed by Israeli military or Palestinian armed groups. However, since Israel is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, in principle, the ICC is not competent to examine acts committed on Israeli territory. Unless Israel authorizes it to initiate investigations on its territory: a hypothesis that can be ruled out right now, given Israel’s deep animosity towards the ICC since even before its creation (2003).

It should be recalled that after signing the Rome Statute on December 31, 2000, Israel notified the United Nations in 2002 of its decision to cancel the effects of its signature by stating that:

(See note 4 at the end of the signature and ratification statement).

A similar notification, drafted in identical terms, to the one sent a few months earlier by the United States, opting to “withdraw” its signature to the Rome Statute (Note 3). It is worth noting that the “withdrawal” of Israel’s signature to the Rome Statute was preceded a few weeks earlier by the adoption of a Bilateral Immunity Agreement (BIA) between the United States and Israel, aimed at avoiding at all costs that American and Israeli personnel could one day be transferred to The Hague at the request of the ICC (see text of the agreement dated August 4, 2022). It is one of the first treaties of its kind, which the United States would later sign with more than 50 states, including several from Latin America (see list prepared by Human Rights Watch).

In the section entitled “The Price Of Not Signing A Non-Delivery Agreement (NDA)” of an article published in Costa Rica in 2013, reviewed what it meant for Costa Rica not to agree to sign a NDA between 2003 and 2006 (Note 4).

International justice is increasingly in demand given the proportions of the human drama that has been unfolding in Gaza since October 7, 2023.

This action by Mexico and Chile before the ICC comes less than a week after the conclusion of the hearings in The Hague (January 11 and 12, 2024) before another jurisdictional instance also located in the Dutch capital, the International Court of Justice (ICJ): these hearings were in response to the lawsuit filed by South Africa against Israel on December 29 last, accompanied by an urgent request for provisional measures (see full text), invoking the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which we had the opportunity to analyze (Note 5).

In its extensive petition of more than 80 pages (see full text, recommended reading in full), South Africa reviewed the events since the afternoon/evening of October 7 in Gaza with the civilian population of Gaza in light of applicable international law, including in paragraphs 101-107 the detail of the chilling official statements of senior Israeli officials.

With 10,000 minors having lost their lives in Gaza since October 7 (see Save the Children report), with another report by the NGO Oxfam reporting 250 lives lost per day in Gaza plus many more unrecorded due to serious untreated wounds, cold, hunger, lack of water (see report), the reality on the ground contradicts (and by far) what was asserted by Israel’s lawyers in The Hague last January 12. It was recently reported that some 20,000 newborn babies have been born in Gaza since October 7 (see France 24 report), whose first days, weeks and months of life are being given in the face of Israel’s incessant bombardment of Gaza.

With regard to the ICC, the Office of the Prosecutor of this international jurisdiction had already been the subject of a collective referral related to the human drama in Gaza since the afternoon/evening of October 7, 2023. This joint action filed on November 17, 2023 was led by South Africa and co-sponsored by Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti (see full text). We also had the opportunity to briefly explain its scope (Note 6).

Let us note that while the “referral” submitted by South Africa on November 17, 2023 gave rise to a press release from the ICC Prosecutor’s office on the same day (see full text). In the case of the referral sent by Chile and Mexico on January 18, 2024, no reaction from the ICC Office of the Prosecutor has been observed (yet) as of January 22.

We share the text written by Professor Nicolás Boeglin, from the Faculty of Law of the UCR on the Gaza / Israel situation and the ICC.
Photo extracted from press release of January 22, 2024 entitled “Ireland Considers Joining South Africa’s ICJ Case Against Israel”, The Cradle.com, available at this link.

A Drama That Increases With Each New Day Of Israeli Bombardment In Gaza

In one of the latest reports prepared by the United Nations (as of January 17, whose complete reading is recommended), it details the level of destruction that has been reached. With almost 25,000 deaths (mostly children and women) and more than 61,000 people injured, noting that each new day of Israeli bombing in Gaza leads to the loss of hundreds of people:

In turn, the latest report from the United Nations (as of January 18, 2024) states that:

Finally, in this same latest available status (as of January 21, 2024, see report) it is stated that:

It is also worth mentioning that many of the seriously wounded people in Gaza are practically condemned to lose their lives, lying under the rubble without being able to be helped, alone, in the cold. When they are helped, they arrive at overcrowded hospitals and shelters, many of them totally or partially destroyed, with no power, no water, not enough medicine, and not enough medical professionals to treat them.

In Conclusion

Given the repeated inability of a body such as the UN Security Council to order a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza (due to the US veto exercised on two occasions, and the threat of a third veto which explains the weaknesses of Council Resolution 2720 finally adopted on December 22, 2023 – see text), it was foreseeable that other States, such as the group led by South Africa, and now the Mexico-Chile duo jointly, would seek to activate jurisdictional mechanisms at their disposal: such as those offered by the Rome Statute creating the ICC, or by the ICJ itself.

And it is quite possible that other actions will be seen.

This is in an attempt to curb the impetus of Israel which, since the evening of October 7, in retaliation for the attack on its territory by Hamas on the same day in the morning, has undertaken a collective punitive action against the civilian population of Gaza. These indiscriminate and disproportionate military actions are carried out in open violation of the most basic rules of international humanitarian law.

At the same time, the entire Middle East is deeply destabilized by the chain reactions generated by other States and other groups in the face of the international community’s inaction: rarely in history has a “threat to international peace and security” (whose action to contain it is expected and constitutes the raison d’être of an organ such as the Security Council), been the object of such peculiar delaying maneuvers on the part of the United States.

It is equally worth recalling that the number of States Parties to the Rome Statute adopted in 1998 is 124 (see official status of signatures and ratifications). While the number of States Parties to the Genocide Convention adopted in 1948 is 153 (see official status). Therefore, the inaction and silence of the other States Parties to both instruments raise very valid questions.

Text shared by Nicolás Boeglin, Professor of International Public Law, School of Law, University of Costa Rica (UCR). Contact: [email protected]

Here is another article that might interest you: Gaza Israel: Overwhelming Majority At The United Nations (UN) General Assembly (sensorialsunsets.com)

Note 1: See in this regard BOEGLIN N., “Corte Penal Internacional (CPI) / Palestina: ¿el fin de la impunidad para los autores de crímenes de guerra cometidos en Palestina?“, edited on February 5, 2021 and available here.

Note 2: Years before Palestine became a State Party to the Rome Statute (2015), a confidential cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv dated February 23, 2010 (see full text) released by Wikileaks in 2011 already indicated Israel’s deep fear of the ICC to its authorities that year, in these terms: “Libman noted that the ICC was the most dangerous issue for Israel and wondered whether the U.S. could simply state publicly its position that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel regarding the Gaza operation”. Colonel Liron Libman, a senior Israeli official, was (and still is) a great connoisseur of the rules of international law: he served for many years as Head of the International Law Department of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Note 3: In this same official statement of signatures and ratifications it is read (note 12 in the final part) that:

Officially proceeding to “withdraw” the signature to an international treaty was a “premiere” in the public international law history in 2002, followed only by Israel (August 2022), Sudan (August 2008), and Russia (November 2016) with respect to the Rome Statute. On December 20, 2022, Guatemala, for reasons unknown to date, felt inspired by such an unusual practice, in relation to another very different treaty, of regional scope this time: the Escazu Agreement. Indeed, after having signed the Escazú Agreement in September 2018, Guatemala notified the United Nations of its intention not to become a State Party in very similar terms (see notification in footnote 1 read in the official statement of signatures and ratifications of the Escazú Agreement).

Note 4: See in this regard BOEGLIN N., “A diez años de la entrada en vigor del Estatuto de Roma: breves reflexiones desde una perspectiva latinoamericana“, Revista del Poder Judicial, 107, March 2013, pp.13-21. Text available here. See also on the matter an article by the former Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, Bruno Stagno Ugarte in the period 2006-2010: STAGNO B., “Defendiendo la integridad del Estatuto de Roma: los altos y bajos del caso de Costa Rica, 2002-2008” in BOEGLIN N., HOFFMAN J & SAINZ-BORGO J., (Editors), The International Criminal Court: a Latin American perspective, 2014, Universidad para la Paz, pp. 303-330).

Note 5: See in this regard BOEGLIN N., “Gaza / Israel: a propósito de la reciente demanda interpuesta por Sudáfrica ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ)“, edited on December 29, 2023 and available here.

Note 6: See in this regard BOEGLIN N., “Gaza / Israel: a propósito del anuncio hecho por Sudáfrica de una acción conjunta ante la Fiscalía de la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI)“, edited on November 18, 2023 and available here.

Materials / Documents

Document 1: Official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico of January 18, 2024 (see official link)

Referral of the Palestinian Situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC)

El día de hoy, México y Chile, remitieron al fiscal de la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI) la situación del Estado de Palestina, a fin de que investigue la probable comisión de crímenes de su competencia.

La remisión se fundamenta en el artículo 13 a) y 14 del Estatuto de la Corte Penal Internacional, que permite a un Estado Parte remitir al fiscal una situación en que parezca haberse cometido uno o varios crímenes de la competencia de la Corte y pedir al fiscal que investigue la situación para determinar si se ha de acusar de la comisión de tales crímenes a una o varias personas.

La acción de México y Chile obedece a la creciente preocupación por la última escalada de violencia, en particular en contra de objetivos civiles, y la presunta comisión continua de crímenes bajo la jurisdicción de la Corte, específicamente a partir del ataque del 7 de octubre de 2023, llevado a cabo por militantes de Hamás y las hostilidades posteriores en Gaza.

Con esta acción, México reitera su respaldo a la CPI como el foro idóneo para el establecimiento de responsabilidad penal internacional individual, en los casos más graves y de mayor relevancia para la comunidad internacional, a la vez se enfatiza la importancia de garantizar la independencia del fiscal de la CPI para investigar los crímenes cometidos en el marco del conflicto en Gaza, ya sea que estos hayan sido cometidos por agentes de la potencia ocupante, como de la potencia ocupada.

La intervención de la CPI cobra particular relevancia ante los numerosos informes de Naciones Unidas que dan cuenta de muy numerosos incidentes que pueden constituir crímenes de la competencia de la CPI de acuerdo con el Estatuto de Roma.

A esto se suma el colapso prácticamente total de la infraestructura nacional de justicia de Palestina, por lo que no estaría en capacidad de investigar o enjuiciar los posibles crímenes cometidos en su territorio o por sus nacionales.

El Estado de Palestina es parte del Estatuto de Roma de la Corte Penal Internacional desde el 1 de abril de 2015, por lo que ésta tiene jurisdicción para investigar los crímenes de su competencia ocurridos en el territorio del Estado palestino o por sus nacionales.

El Gobierno de México tiene conocimiento y da puntual seguimiento al caso presentado por Sudáfrica ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia y a la solicitud de medidas provisionales.

México reitera su compromiso con la justicia internacional, la prevención del genocidio y otros crímenes de guerra y contra la humanidad. Asimismo, confía en que estas acciones, basadas en la solución pacífica de controversias, puedan abrir espacios para un cese al fuego inmediato y contribuyan a allanar el camino para una paz duradera en la región sobre la base de la solución de dos Estados que convivan dentro de fronteras seguras e internacionalmente reconocidas.

Document 2: Official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile dated January 18, 2024 (see link official link).

Chile and Mexico submit referral of the situation of Palestine to the International Criminal Court

El ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, Alberto van Klaveren, informó que el embajador de Chile en Países Bajos, Jaime Moscoso, presentó hoy, junto a México, un escrito de remisión ante la Corte Penal Internacional (CPI) respecto de la situación en Palestina, con el objetivo de reforzar la investigación de los presuntos crímenes de guerra y crímenes de lesa humanidad ocurridos en Gaza, Cisjordania, Jerusalén Este e Israel, ilícitos contemplados en el Estatuto de Roma.

Considerando que actualmente existe una investigación en curso por parte de la Fiscalía de la CPI respecto a la situación de Palestina, el objetivo de la remisión de Chile es apoyar al fiscal en su indagación.

“Lo que nos interesa es apoyar la investigación de cualquier posible crimen de guerra que se haya cometido en el área, venga de donde venga, trátese de crímenes de guerra cometidos por israelíes o por palestinos y crímenes de guerra que se hayan cometido en el territorio de Gaza, en los territorios ocupados de Cisjordania, en Jerusalén del Este y también, por cierto, en Israel”, señaló el canciller.

Agregó que “es importante tomar en cuenta que el derecho internacional humanitario se refiere tanto a la acción de los Estados como también de los grupos no estatales. En consecuencia, se refiere a actos cometidos por el Estado de Israel, pero también, por cierto, a actos cometidos por el grupo, Hamas a través de las acciones terroristas que desarrolló el día 7 de octubre del año pasado en territorio israelí”.

Desde el pasado 7 de octubre, Chile ha insistido reiteradamente, al igual que muchos países y organismos internacionales, en condenar los ataques terroristas de Hamas y en exigir la liberación inmediata de los rehenes; en reconocer el derecho de Israel a defenderse de conformidad con el Derecho Internacional Humanitario; en condenar las operaciones militares en Gaza que no han cumplido con los principios de proporcionalidad y distinción del derecho internacional humanitario; en exigir el respeto del derecho internacional y los derechos humanos; y en solicitar un cese inmediato al fuego.

Finalmente, Chile reitera nuevamente su llamado al diálogo, que conduzca a la única solución posible para poner fin a este conflicto histórico: dos Estados, Israel y Palestina, coexistiendo en paz, en el marco de fronteras seguras e internacionalmente reconocidas, de conformidad a lo establecido en las resoluciones adoptadas por Naciones Unidas.