Palestinian human rights groups urged the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to examine the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which has denied two million Palestinians a panoply of fundamental rights for nearly a decade, as the crime against humanity of persecution under the Rome Statute. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, and Aldameer submitted a 145-page file to the ICC Prosecutor setting out the factual and legal basis for the case.
Since June 2007, Israel has instituted a comprehensive closure on the Gaza Strip in which it has denied the free movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, amounting to collective punishment. The Gaza Strip, a constituent part of the State of Palestine, is frequently described as the world’s largest open-air prison.
“The siege on Gaza is unprecedented and is a form of collective punishment. The aim of the closure and the occupation is to de-develop Gaza, to strip Palestinians of their dignity and send Gazan society back to the Middle Ages,” said Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR. “Israel’s absolute control over Gaza’s borders and population has set back generations of Palestinians who cannot travel, access education, receive medical treatment, or engage with the outside world. The ICC must urgently proceed to investigate the crimes against the Palestinian population in Gaza.”
Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan, further stated that “efforts to ease the closure – which is cruel by design and amounts to a crisis of dignity – have been woefully unsuccessful, as evidenced by the ineffectiveness of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism. A full lifting of the closure is required and the protection of civilians must be ensured.”