Mexico City, January 18, 2024 (Mexico Solidarity) – Mexico and Chile jointly referred the ongoing situation in the State of Palestine to the International Criminal Court (ICC), urging an investigation into the alleged commission of crimes falling under the court’s jurisdiction.

“This action by Mexico and Chile is due to growing concern over the latest escalation of violence, particularly against civilian targets, and the alleged continued commission of crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court,” read a statement published by the Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary.

Oxfam recently concluded that the Israeli campaign is resulting in the highest daily death toll of any other major conflict of recent years, with Israel killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day.

“The scale and atrocities that Israel is visiting upon Gaza are truly shocking. For 100 days the people of Gaza have endured a living hell. Nowhere is safe and the entire population is at risk of famine,” said Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam’s Middle East Director.

In its statement, the Mexican government said it hoped this action would lead to an immediate ceasefire. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict but has abstained from breaking diplomatic relations with Israel.

The statement by Mexico said that the referral was grounded in Article 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute, the treaty which established the Court, which permits a state party to refer to the prosecutor a situation where one or more crimes within the court’s jurisdiction appear to have been committed. Israel has not ratified the treaty and therefore is not a party to the statute, both Chile and Mexico are signatories. Palestine became a state party in 2015.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan confirmed last year that the ICC has jurisdiction over potential crimes carried out by a national of any state party or within the territory of a state party, including alleged crimes committed by Israelis in the Gaza Strip, despite Israel not being a member state. 

Following a referral last year by other state parties calling for an investigation into Israel’s attacks on Gaza, Khan said that his office is already investigating the situation in Palestine and confirmed that this investigation includes the recent escalation of hostilities that has seen over 24,000 civilians killed in Gaza.

“This investigation, commenced on 3 March 2021, encompasses conduct that may amount to Rome Statute crimes committed since 13 June 2014 in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” said Khan in November. 

The ICC probe into Israel’s alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories was launched by Khan’s predecessor, former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, following a six-year preliminary examination.

Experts in international law, such as UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, have criticized Khan’s lack of progress on the investigation.

“Not communicating, not gaining a sense of progress from the Office of the Prosecutor sends the message that the situation does not warrant attention,” Albanese told Justice Info last year.

A group of UN special rapporteurs, including Albanese, wrote a letter to Khan in April of last year outlining their concern over “the pervasive impunity and ever-deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory” and called the prosecutor’s office to expedite their work.

The referral to the ICC is a separate process from a recent case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) launched by South Africa accusing Israel of carrying out genocide in Gaza and demanded emergency measures to order Israel suspend its military campaign. The ICJ, also known as the World Court, handles disputes between states. Meanwhile, the ICC is considered a court of last resort and prosecutes the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.