Craig Murray: Activating the Genocide Convention

There is no room to doubt that Israel’s bombing of Palestinian civilians and depriving them of food, water and other necessities of life are grounds to invoke the 1948 Genocide Convention. 

Still from a U.N. film strip on the 1948 Genocide Convention, circa 1949. (U.N. Photo)

By Craig Murray

There are 149 states party to the Genocide Convention. Every one of them has the right to call out the genocide in progress in Gaza and report it to the United Nations. 

In the event that another state party disputes the claim of genocide — and Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom are all states party — then the International Court of Justice is required to adjudicate on “the responsibility of a State for genocide.”

These are the relevant articles of the genocide convention:

Article VIII
Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Article IX
Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.”

Note that here “parties to the dispute” means the states disputing the facts of genocide, not the parties to the genocide/conflict. Any single state party is able to invoke the convention.

There is no doubt that Israel’s actions amount to genocide. Numerous international law experts have said so and genocidal intent has been directly expressed by numerous Israeli ministers, generals and public officials.

Definition of Genocide

Palestine solidarity march in London on Oct. 9. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is the definition of genocide in international law, from the Genocide Convention:

Article II
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”

I can see no room to doubt whatsoever that Israel’s current campaign of bombing of civilians and of the deprivation of food, water and other necessities of life to Palestinians amounts to genocide under articles II a), b) and c).

It is also worth considering Articles III and IV:

Article III
The following acts shall be punishable:
(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.

Article IV
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

There is, at the very least, a strong prima facie case that the actions of the United States and United Kingdom and others, in openly providing direct military support to be used in genocide, are complicit in genocide.

The point of Article IV is that individuals are responsible, not just states. So Israel’s Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak bear individual responsibility. So, indeed, do all those who have been calling for the destruction of the Palestinians.

It is very definitely worth activating the Genocide Convention. A judgement of the International Court of Justice that Israel is guilty of genocide would have an extraordinary diplomatic effect and would cause domestic difficulties in the U.K. and even in the U.S. in continuing to subsidise and arm Israel. 

Relationship of ICJ & ICC

The International Court of Justice is the most respected of international institutions; while the United States has repudiated its compulsory jurisdiction, the United Kingdom has not and the EU positively accepts it.

If the International Court of Justice makes a determination of genocide, then the International Criminal Court does not have to determine that genocide has happened. 

This is important because unlike the august and independent ICJ, the ICC is very much a western government puppet institution which will wiggle out of action if it can. 

But a determination of the ICJ of genocide and of complicity in genocide would reduce the ICC’s task to determining which individuals bear the responsibility. That is a prospect which can indeed alter the calculations of politicians.

[Related: Craig Murray: The Right of Self-Defense]

It is also the fact that a reference for genocide would force the Western media to address the issue and use the term, rather than just pump out propaganda about Hamas having fighting bases in hospitals. 

Furthermore a judgement from the ICJ would automatically trigger a reference to the United Nations General Assembly — crucially not to the Western-vetoed Security Council.

All this begs the question of why no state has yet invoked the Genocide Convention. This is especially remarkable as Palestine is one of the 149 states party to the Genocide Convention, and for this purpose would have standing before both the U.N. and the ICJ.

I am afraid the question of why Palestine has not invoked the Genocide Convention takes us somewhere very dark. Anyone who, like George Galloway and myself, cut their political teeth in left-wing politics of Dundee of the 1970s has (long story) their experience and contacts with Fatah, and my sympathies have always very much lain with Fatah rather than Hamas.

They still do, with the aspiration for a democratic, secular Palestine. It is Fatah who occupy the Palestinian seat at the United Nations, and the decision for Palestine to call into play the Genocide Convention lies with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Abbas at the Muqata in Ramallah, West Bank, on Nov. 5. (State Department, Chuck Kennedy)

It is more and more difficult daily to support Abbas. He seems extraordinarily passive, and the suspicion that he is more concerned with refighting the Palestinian civil war than with resisting the genocide is impossible to shake. 

[Related: Mahmoud Abbas & Risk of Civil War]

By invoking the Genocide Convention he could put himself and Fatah back at the centre of the narrative. But he does nothing. I do not want to believe that corruption and a promise from the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken of inheriting Gaza are Mahmoud’s motivators. But at the moment, I cannot grab on to any other explanation to believe in.

Any one of the 139 states party could invoke the Genocide Convention against Israel and its co-conspirators. Those states include Iran, Russia, Libya, Malaysia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Afghanistan, Cuba, Ireland, Iceland, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey and Qatar. But not one of these states has called out the genocide. Why?

It is not because the Genocide Convention is a dead letter. It is not. It was invoked against Serbia by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ICJ ruled against Serbia with regard to the massacre at Srebrenica. This fed directly through to ICC prosecutions.

Some states may simply not have thought of it. For Arab states in particular, the fact that Palestine itself has not invoked the Genocide Convention may provide an excuse. EU states can hide behind bloc unanimity.

But I am afraid that the truth is that no state cares sufficiently about the thousands of Palestinian children already killed and thousands more who will shortly be killed, to introduce another factor of hostility in their relationship with the United States.

Just as last weekend’s summit in Saudi Arabia, where Islamic countries could not agree an oil-and-gas boycott of Israel, the truth is that those in power really do not care about a genocide in Gaza. They care about their own interests.

It just needs one state to invoke the Genocide Convention and change the narrative and the international dynamic. That will only happen through the power of the people in pressing the idea on their governments. This is where everybody can do a little something to add to the pressure. Please do what you can.

Hat tip to the indefatigable Sam Husseini, the independent journalist who has been pressing the Genocide Convention on the White House.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

9 comments for “Craig Murray: Activating the Genocide Convention

  1. November 20, 2023 at 16:39

    The concept of ius cogens has been used by major states (e.g., the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, France, etc.) when it has proven convenient, as with respect to the ex post facto law applied following World War II in the Nuremberg tribunals. It is the most important tool available under international law given the absence of ancillary legislative, executive or judicial institutions wielding related powers. The United Nations has developed and promoted a large number of essential treaties which major powers have refused to ratify, although in a number of cases, they were involved in drafting them and signed them. The concept of ius cogens can make them universally binding, even on states that have refused to ratify them. Ius cogens is a peremptory norm from which no derogation is permitted and thus superior to national laws, including national constitutions, as well as to inconsistent elements of multinational, international and supranational law. Examples are the prohibition of genocide and crimes of lesse humanidad, maritime piracy, slavery, the slave trade, wars of aggression and territorial aggrandizement, torture, and refoulement (the return of asylum seekers by a country that granted them asylum to a country in which they would be in probable danger of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion). Obviously the Convention Prohibiting Genocide to which 149 states are parties should be considered ius cogens binding on non-parties as well. The truth is, the same ought to apply to most treaties adopted by a majority of the sovereign states in the world, especially if such states also represent a majority of the world’s population, and especially to those implementing the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. That it does not makes a mockery of the concept of law, domestic or international, and makes it clear that today, only arbitrary power counts for anything, and thus, that in essence, we live in a Hobbesian jungle.

  2. Marie-France Germain
    November 20, 2023 at 15:17

    The ICJP’s Legal Working Group (google it) in Canada has filed “ICJP’S LEGAL WORKING GROUP FOR CANADIAN ACCOUNTABILITY ISSUES CANADIAN GOVERNMENT WITH NOTICE OF INTENTION TO SEEK PROSECUTION OF POLITICIANS FOR COMPLICITY IN WAR CRIMES IN GAZA” and there is an online Youtube video by this working group from this past Friday and if you google the site, everything being done by these Lawyers who are specialists in International Laws is prepared in a package that is very readable and watchable. Finally, as a Canadian, I feel that at least something seems to be happening at the more grassroots level that may translate into International condemnation of Israel’s horrendous genocidal attacks on an innocent population.

    I believe that most of us seeing what is occuring in the Middle East have no problem understanding how wrong this is and it is so dangerous as it is backed by some of the most powerful corporate entities which means, we are not out of the range that it may happen to us as well should it profit these greed mongers who are destroying our climate and therefore, humanity and all that is good on this planet.

  3. November 20, 2023 at 12:33

    This is a most informative and tgought provoking article – one of Craig’s best. It is good that he clarifies the difference between the ICJ and the ICC, and the value of the former. How terrible that no country in the entire world – not even Nicaragua, which won an UCJ case against the US – will stand up to oppose the Palestinian genocide.

  4. Deniz
    November 20, 2023 at 11:25

    ‘Türkiye to file legal complaint against Israel’s genocide in Gaza’

    Daily Sabah from 2 days ago.

    Is all I have heard is Turkey is all hat and no cattle, but they are doing what they can without breaking international law.

  5. Eric Foor
    November 20, 2023 at 11:22

    Excellent points Craig! This is truly a case that the UN, with the adjudication of the IJC, needs to addressed immediately. Israel, America and the UK all need to be brought to heal by a united mandate from of the rest of the world. The covert Zionist pressure on all the UN countries (since it’s inception) needs to be exposed and castigated.

    In America the corrupt control that AIPAC welds over which politicians are elected needs to be brought to the attention of the public. The cost to our economy, to our lives and to our corrupted souls need to be plainly presented to the American Citizen. Outlaw AIPAC!

    Explain to all Americans that “Christian Zionism” is a relatively new interpretation of modern Biblical scriptures. It has NOTHING to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ…but has everything to do with supporting those who denied him.

  6. Walter
    November 20, 2023 at 08:34

    Let us consider what would happen if the Genocide Convention led to the GA, and they “authorized violence”, arrests, etc… Would everybody shrug and go home… Never give an order that is not going to be obeyed. Contrawise, effective Strategy calls for an indirect path to Peace… That would be the “rope-a-dope” Strategy, allow fascists to exhaust themselves, then… well then is a big question…then fascists lose power in their lairs…remembering the pitchfork principle…it’s absurd, and evil…and it’s process to terminus. Rope-a-dope is the war we see, Gaza being merely one small place… No need for ICJ ruling… it would be nice later on, after the war, when fascists are exhausted and the people surrender the criminals, for the trials…

  7. TP Graf
    November 20, 2023 at 06:44

    I appreciate the context and process required for the ICJ referral. That said, it may be the most depressing thing I’ve read in terms of the lack of humanitarian response that not a single country has stepped up to take action.

  8. RWilson
    November 19, 2023 at 21:31

    My guess is that Abbas doesn’t want to be assassinated or have some beloved family members killed. That is standard Israeli operating procedure, and he would probably be warned. Plus an extra fistful of dollars to make it more palatable.

  9. November 19, 2023 at 15:15

    “[T]he truth is that those in power really do not care about a genocide in Gaza. They care about their own interests.”

    One more time for the people in the back!

    The Genocide Convention, like all other national and international laws on the books, exists as a cudgel only selectively wielded against those that the powers that be do not like, and whether or not pursuing indictments in any given case happens to actually be a righteous cause is purely incidental. Civilians outside of government can invoke such laws as standards for states to live up to, but we should never become addled by hopium (e.g., assuming that people who necessarily rose to the top through deceit and unscrupulousness will ever pursue good for its own sake).

    The United States, the People’s Republic of China, and the Gulf monarchies being willing to countenance the Isaaq genocide by Siad Barre’s forces in Somalia, while the USSR, Cuba, and Israel did likewise for Mengistu Haile Mariam’s democidal regime in Ethiopia, arming both competitors in the Horn of Africa to the teeth for their own geostrategic ends and using the region as their own personal playground to subvert détente, leaving Mickey Leland and Herman Cohen to clean up the mess, is but one instructive example (if a very potent one).

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