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ICC prosecutor: Hamas’s Oct. 7 crimes ‘shock the conscience of humanity’

Karim Khan visited Israel at the request of families whose loved ones were killed or taken hostage.

British lawyer Karim Ahmad Khan, elected on Feb. 12, 2021, to replace Fatou Bensouda as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Credit: ICC.
British lawyer Karim Ahmad Khan, elected on Feb. 12, 2021, to replace Fatou Bensouda as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Credit: ICC.

Hamas’s brutal slaughter of more than 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7 represents “some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,” International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan said on Sunday as he concluded a visit to the Jewish state.

Khan traveled to Israel at the request of families whose loved ones were murdered or taken hostage by terrorist groups based in the Gaza Strip, the prosecutor announced in a blog post on Sunday. Jerusalem does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“In both Kibbutz Beeri and Kibbutz Kfar Azza, as well as at the site of the Nova Music Festival in Re’im, I witnessed scenes of calculated cruelty,” wrote Khan, vowing to work in partnership with victims’ families “as part of our ongoing work to hold those responsible to account.”

He called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the estimated 137 hostages who remain in Hamas captivity, citing in particular “the egregious breach of fundamental principles of humanity through the taking and continued holding of children.”

Commenting on Israel’s military operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Khan noted that the Israel Defense Forces “has trained lawyers who advise commanders and a robust system intended to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.

“Conflict in densely populated areas where fighters are alleged to be unlawfully embedded in the civilian population is inherently complex, but international humanitarian must still apply and the Israeli military knows the law that must be applied,” said the prosecutor.

“As I have repeatedly emphasised, civilians must have access to basic food, water and desperately needed medical supplies, without further delay, and at pace and at scale. And when such aid arrives, it must not be diverted or misused by Hamas,” the blog post continued.

During a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Khan discussed ways to “deepen our cooperation under the Rome Statute,” the ICC’s founding charter. The prosecutor said he also spoke with “victims and their families from the West Bank and Gaza.”

The P.A. in 2015 declared its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed by Israel. However, Israel does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over the so-called “situation in Palestine.”

The U.S. has likewise voiced strong objections to the Palestinians’ joining the International Criminal Court, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously expressing “serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.”

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