The Shurat Hadin Israel Law Centre has filed a complaint about Hamas to the International Criminal Court (ICC), local media reported on Wednesday. The centre accuses Hamas of using children as human shields in the Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip.
In doing so, alleges Shurat Hadin, the movement violated the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. The statute stipulates that using children under 15 years in military action constitutes a war crime. The claim apparently ignores the fact that the March was and remains a peaceful protest against the Israeli occupation and its government’s refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to exercise their legitimate right of return to their homes inside what is now Israel.
The Israeli group named three Hamas officials —Khaled Meshaal, the former head of the movement’s Political Bureau; Saleh Al-Arouri, the current deputy Hamas chief; and Zaher Jabarin, a current member of the bureau — in the submission to the ICC. It claimed that as these three hold Jordanian citizenship they are subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction as Jordan is a signatory to the Rome Statute.
“The death of a 15-year-old boy near the Gaza border last week was a direct result of the war crimes committed by Hamas leaders against their own people,” Shurat Hadin Director Nitzana Darshan-Leitner told Israel Hayom. “It is not Israel that should face an investigation, or fend off criticism by the European Union and a demand by the UN for an investigation into the death of [Palestinian] children – it is Hamas leaders who send these children to be human shields, to be killed in battle.”
The Great March of Return, pointed out one observer, is a peaceful demonstration, not a “battle” as this group claims. “It is the Israel Defence Forces which opened fire on peaceful and, crucially, unarmed demonstrators,” added MEMO’s senior editor, Ibrahim Hewitt. “To claim otherwise makes a mockery of international law and wastes the court’s time. Shurat Hadin’s submission and resultant publicity is an attempt to divert world attention away from Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.”