Over 200 lawyers and legal scholars have sent a letter to Prime Trudeau with copies to Ministers of National Defence and Foreign Affairs and opposition leaders saying that the Canadian government’s ongoing failure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza unconscionable and is a shocking disregard of vital international humanitarian and human rights legal standards. Signed by Alex Neve former executive director of Amnesty Canada International, former UN Rapporteurs Lynk and Farha, along with more than 200 lawyers and legal scholars.
Photo credit: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) in a meeting with with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Video Grab via Palestine Chronicle).
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minister,
As lawyers and legal scholars, we find the Canadian government’s ongoing failure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza unconscionable and to be in shocking disregard of vital international humanitarian and human rights legal standards that Canada regularly champions around the world. Since Hamas’s killing of 1,400 Israelis on October 7, Israel’s assault on Gaza – where it is the Occupying Power – has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians. According to Save The Children, more children have been killed in Gaza in the last three weeks alone than the annual total of all the world’s conflicts combined since 2019.
Your government has been clear and unequivocal in condemning the Hamas attacks – which have been widely decried as war crimes – and insisting that all hostages be released. We join you in that call. But the failure to be equally clear and unequivocal in condemning unlawful actions taken by Israel in response to those attacks is of deep concern and makes a mockery of the universal nature of human rights.
Apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Israel in Gaza, as documented by human rights organizations and experts, include: attacks on homes, hospitals, schools, refugee camps, journalists, and other civilian targets without any legitimate military objective; indiscriminate use of incendiary munitions such as white phosphorous; collective punishment and use of starvation as a weapon of war via blockade; and evacuation orders tantamount to forcible displacement and ethnic cleansing.
The current violence occurs in the context of Israel’s long-standing illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and denial of Palestinians’ jus cogens right to self-determination. Systemic violations associated with the occupation include institutionalized practices of apartheid, torture, forcible transfer, persecution, land annexation, incommunicado and arbitrary detention, and mass killing of civilians (including children) with impunity. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism pointed out in October 2022, the “escalating … daily gross violations of [Palestinians’] human rights” has been enabled internationally by the “suppression of legitimate criticisms of the State of Israel, a State that must, like any other in the United Nations system, be accountable for human rights violations that it perpetrates.”
UN Experts as well as a group of 800 genocide and international law scholars have warned that the situation in Gaza is now approaching genocide – which all Third Party States under the UN Genocide Convention have a duty to prevent. We call on Canada to:
- honour its specific obligation to prevent genocide and its wider responsibility to act to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza, including by immediately calling for a ceasefire;
- support international mechanisms to address the underlying causes for violence, including by removing objections to the ongoing legal proceedings before the International Court of Justice and ongoing investigations by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court;
- cease any complicity with Israel’s violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through provision of arms and other forms of trade; and
- ensure that the freedom of expression in Canada to criticize Israel’s violations is upheld.
Prime Minister, your government’s actions will be judged by history, and are under scrutiny today. You have frequently passionately extolled the importance of foundational instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now is the moment to demonstrate the integrity of those assertions by taking the steps necessary to ensure that the rights of Palestinians are respected and upheld in full equality to the rest of humanity.
See letter and signatories below
https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/study-legality-israeli-occupation-occupied-palestinian-territory-including-east-jerusalem; https://www.icc-cpi.int/sites/default/files/itemsDocuments/palestine/210215-palestine-q-a-eng.pdf; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/feb/23/israelandthepalestinians.unitednations#; https://www.icj-cij.org/sites/default/files/case-related/186/186-20230623-req-02-01-en.pdf.
https://amnesty.ca/human-rights-news/damning-evidence-of-war-crimes-as-israeli-attacks-wipe-out-entire-families-in-gaza/; https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/israel-commits-widespread-war-crimes-gaza-humanitarian-catastrophe-imminent-enar; https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/10/israeloccupied-palestinian-territory-un-experts-deplore-attacks-civilians; https://cpj.org/2023/10/journalist-casualties-in-the-israel-gaza-conflict/; https://www.who.int/news/item/28-10-2023-who-civilians-patients-and-health-workers-in-gaza-spend-night-in-darkness-and-fear.
https://amnesty.ca/human-rights-news/israel-opt-israel-must-lift-illegal-and-inhumane-blockade-on-gaza-as-power-plant-runs-out-of-fuel/; https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/10/23/israel-still-blocking-aid-civilians-gaza; https://www.msf.org/indiscriminate-violence-and-collective-punishment-gaza-must-cease; https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/starvation-weapon-war-being-used-against-gaza-civilians-oxfam.