Canada was one of the early and principled supporters of the idea of an International Criminal Court. But recently Canada has found a lamentably legalistic reason to undercut the ICC in its investigation of potential Israeli war crimes. See the video interview with Amnesty International Canada General Secretary Alex Neve. Read more….
“Canada played a crucial role in establishing the International Criminal Court,” proudly notes the official Global Affairs Canada (GAC) website. “It continues to support the ICC with crucial leadership, advocacy and resources.”
On the same page GAC continues, “Canada became the first country in the world to incorporate the obligations of the Rome Statute into its national laws when it adopted the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act on June 24, 2000.”
But Canada’s principled (and even somewhat boastful) statements don’t seem to apply, it seems, when the ICC wants to investigate potential war crimes by Israel, which Canada sees as an “ally”.
When Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced on December 20th, 2019, that she was opening an investigation into potential Israeli war crimes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, human rights activists around the world had a common reaction — “Finally!”.
Predictably, Israel went into high gear to try to enlist the support of its friends around the world to help sideline the investigation. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even called Prime Minister Trudeau to ask for help.
A few days later, Trudeau, perhaps concerned about pressures from Canada’s pro-Israel lobby, informed the ICC that Canada would not support the investigation. The reason? Canada does not recognize Palestine as a state – notwithstanding the fact that 138 of 193 UN member countries do recognize the Palestinian State!!
“Canada’s long-standing position is that it does not recognize a Palestinian state.”, Guillaume Bérubé, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, told Canadian Jewish news in an email. “In the absence of a Palestinian state, it is Canada’s view that the (ICC) does not have jurisdiction in this matter under international law,” Bérubé added.
Aware of these developments, on February 28th Alex Neve, Secretary General of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International and Professor Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories sent an urgent joint letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Minister Louis-Philipppe Champagne. In the letter they reviewed Israel’s history of human rights abuses and argued that Canada should actively support the work of the investigator. (As of this date, no answer has been given to the letter.)
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ACCUSES TRUDEAU OF THREATENING THE ICC
“We are deeply concerned by news reports that (…) Canada, has “reminded the Court” of its provision of budgetary resources in a letter to the ICC (…) which appears to be a threat to withdraw financial support.”
Amnesty International, March 16, 2020
On May 7th, CTIP interviewed Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve about the ICC investigation, and Canada’s role in it.
Amnesty International Canada is not the only organization calling on the Canadian government to reverse its position. By April 29th, 42 Canadian civil society organizations have signed a letter supporting the ICC investigation and urging the Canadian government to reverse its position. “The Canadian government has accountability through both international and domestic law to take steps to ensure Israel does not commit war crimes and is held accountable for war crimes it does commit.” the letter stated. Other organizations which agree are encouraged so sign it as well.
Anyone concerned about Canada’s reluctance to support the ICC could write a short note to Prime Minister Trudeau, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, with a copy to their local MP, and… of course to their friends.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. There is no need to use strong words. A focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights is enough. Readers who have a different point of view are invited to make comment.
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