Luis Moreno Ocampo

Former International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo—seen here speaking at a 2017 Organization of American States meeting—says both Israel and Hamas are guilty of genocide.

(Photo: Organization of American States/flickr/cc)

Former ICC Prosecutor Says Both Israel and Hamas Guilty of Genocide

"Each bombing, each of the killings, should be properly investigated," said Luis Moreno Ocampo, "but... the siege itself is already genocide."

Luis Moreno Ocampo, the International Criminal Court's first chief prosecutor, said Friday that both Hamas and Israel perpetrated genocide—the Palestinian resistance group by murdering around 1,200 Israelis on October 7, and the Israeli government by besieging Gaza.

Appearing on Al Jazeera's "UpFront," Moreno Ocampo said that "you have Hamas committing war crimes... crimes against humanity, the crime committed in Israel on October 7... and probably genocide, because Hamas has [the] intention to destroy Israelis as a group."

"Then, Israel's reaction also includes many crimes," he continued. "It's complicated to define the war crimes, because each bombing has to be evaluated. But there is something very clear: The siege of Gaza itself... is a form of genocide."

"Article 2C of the Genocide Convention defines that you don't need to kill people to commit genocide," the Argentinian jurist added. "The rules say inflicting conditions to destroy the group, that itself is a genocide. So creating the siege itself is a genocide, and that is very clear."

"Many officers of the Israeli government are also expressing genocidal intentions," Moreno Ocampo noted. "That's why it's easy to say and there's reasonable basis to believe Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza, just the siege. Each bombing, each of the killings, should be properly investigated but... the siege itself is already genocide."

Under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide—the first human rights treaty unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly—genocide is defined as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group":

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Raz Segal, a leading Israeli Holocaust scholar, argues that his country is perpetrating "a textbook case of genocide" in Gaza.

More than 800 international lawyers, jurists, and genocide scholars in October published an open letter stating that "we are compelled to sound the alarm about the possibility of the crime of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

The letter notes that "preexisting conditions in the Gaza Strip had already prompted discussions of genocide prior to the current escalation," notably by the National Lawyers Guild, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

CCR attorneys warned U.S. President Joe Biden in October that his "unwavering" support for Israel, including pushing for an additional $14.3 billion in American military aid for the country atop the nearly $4 billion it already gets each year—could make him complicit in genocide.

As for the problem of prosecuting Israeli genocide perpetrators when the country is not signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Moreno Ocampo noted during the interview that "the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem."

"Any crime committed in those places, by any person, could be mitigated by the International Criminal Court," he added.

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