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August 22, 2014

The Right Honorable Ms. Fatou Bensouda
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court  
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM, The Hague
The Netherlands

Re: Request for the initiation of an investigation into crimes committed and ongoing during and immediately before Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute, on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court

Dear Madam Prosecutor:

I write on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, the first racially integrated United States bar association formed in 1937 to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human, and civil rights, and the endorsing organizations indicated below.

In light of the extreme gravity of the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, in particular the large number of civilian casualties and large scale destruction of civilian property, including schools, mosques and hospitals, and the ongoing incitement to genocide perpetrated by Israeli political figures and leaders, the National Lawyers Guild and endorsing organizations strongly urge the Office of the Prosecutor to immediately use its power under Article 15 of the Rome Statute to initiate a preliminary investigation on “the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court” (article 15(1)).

A number of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations have conducted preliminary investigations and prepared reports that strongly suggest that crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been and are being committed. Credible information from “states, organs of the United Nations, intergovernmental or non-governmental organizations [and] other reliable sources,” including eyewitness accounts (article 15(2)), is readily and widely available. The “seriousness of the information” available is beyond doubt, which is why both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have called for accountability and justice. High Commissioner Pillay specifically stated that there is “increasing evidence of war crimes” being committed in Gaza.

Israel’s clearly disproportionate use of force against the 1.8 million residents of Gaza appears to have little to do with any claim of security, but seems to be calculated to exact revenge against Palestinian civilians. Even before Israel’s extensive aerial bombardment of Gaza began, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to Israel’s aim. On July 1, 2014, at the televised funeral of the three slain settlers, Netanyahu stoked the emotions of the mourners by quoting from a Hebrew poem: “vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created” and calling for God to “avenge their blood.” He later tweeted that same line from the poem. The next day, Palestinian teen Mohammad Abu Khdeir was set on fire and murdered by extremist settlers, and acts of violence and incitement against Palestinians by Israeli settlers, police and occupation forces increased dramatically.

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