Lebanon reverses granting jurisdiction to the ICC for war crimes

Lebanon has reversed its decision to grant the ICC jurisdiction to investigate war crimes on its territory, which human rights observers say would hinder accountability.

Rights groups hoped to refer Israel’s killing of Reuters photojournalist Essam Abdullah to the ICC for investigation as a war crime. (Getty)

The Lebanese government on Wednesday reversed its decision to give the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes that have taken place on Lebanese soil since October – a move rights activists described as a blow to accountability.

Israel has carried out several attacks in Lebanon since clashes between Hezbollah and Israel began in October that observers say should be investigated as possible war crimes.

Giving the ICC jurisdiction to investigate these and other attacks could have resulted in criminal prosecution of any other officials responsible for unlawful attacks in Lebanon, Israel or otherwise.

A month earlier, on April 26, Lebanon’s interim cabinet instructed the Lebanese Foreign Ministry to submit a statement to the ICC accepting the court’s jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in Lebanon since October 7 commit, investigate and prosecute.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not implement the cabinet decree and never submitted the declaration to the ICC. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese Cabinet revoked the order granting full jurisdiction to the ICC. Instead, it changed its order to the MFA to present evidence of war crimes to the UN, rather than the ICC.

The ICC is the only international legal body that can issue arrest warrants for individuals, despite neither Lebanon nor Israel being members of the court.

Ukraine has twice submitted similar declarations to the ICC, giving the court the authority to investigate alleged Russian war crimes within a certain period.

“The government has taken a historic decision that may have paved the way for accountability and justice for serious crimes committed on Lebanese territory since October 7. If they are serious about seeking justice for these crimes, they must uphold that decision,” said Ramzi Kaiss, a Lebanon-based researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW). The new Arab.

On October 13, Israel targeted a group of journalists in southern Lebanon, seriously wounding Agence France-Presse journalist Christina Assi and killing Reuters photojournalist Essam Abdullah. Research by HRW and Amnesty International shows that Israel appears to have deliberately targeted journalists, which is a violation of international law.

On November 21, Israel killed two more journalists in southern Lebanon, Farah Omar and Rabie al-Memari, who were working with the Lebanese newspaper al-Mayadeen.

Other possible violations of international law by Israel that have been recorded by rights groups since October include the shelling of a southern Lebanese border town with white phosphorus, a drone strike that killed a woman and three children, and an airstrike which left seven paramedics dead.

“Our hope was to at least put on the international legal track all the crimes Israel committed in Lebanon. In Lebanon you have a solid basis to go to the ICC,” said Farouk al-Mughrabi, a former adviser to the Justice Ministry. human rights that helped draft the original order granting ICC jurisdiction, recounted TNA.

Al-Mughrabi added that the fact that the ICC issued arrest warrants last week against Hamas and Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, gave him hope that there would be accountability for possible war crimes committed in Lebanon.

Despite the cancellation of the ICC’s grant of jurisdiction in Lebanon, activists said they would continue to explore other avenues to achieve justice for victims of unlawful attacks, such as Essam Abdullah.

“We do not consider the road closed at this time. We have the (UN) Human Rights Council, where we will continue to try to get an international commission to investigate the (murder of Essam Abdullah) and the UN Security Council, Elsy Moufarrej, the coordinator of the Lebanese Alternative Press Syndicate, told TNA.

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