CHICAGO: The International Center of Justice for Palestinians plans to file petitions with the International Criminal Court seeking war crimes indictments against four leading Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The organization’s Legal Working Group for Canadian Accountability said on Thursday the prosecutions would focus on the role of politicians in “aiding and abetting Israel’s perpetration of war crimes” in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, followed by a ground invasion, began after a surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 that reportedly killed about 1,400 Israeli civilians and military personnel in the area around the territory’s northern border with Israel.
The ICJP, which describes itself as an independent organization of lawyers, academics and politicians that work to promote and support Palestinian rights, accused the Canadian officials of being “complicit in war crimes.”
It said that despite the rising civilian death toll in Gaza and “clear evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and despite international outrage from the United Nations and human rights experts across the globe, Canada has continued to pledge its steadfast support for Israel.
“It has also refused to halt arms exports, refused to take action to prevent the illegal recruitment of Canadian volunteers to assist Israel’s military, and refused to stop millions of dollars from being unlawfully sent by some Canadian organizations with charitable status to benefit Israel’s military.”
It said it “calls on the government of Canada to end its complicity in war crimes by calling for a ceasefire, canceling all arms-exports permits to Israel, prosecuting those recruiting Canadian volunteers for Israel’s armed forces, and preventing Canadian charities from using donations to benefit Israel’s armed forces.”
In the weeks since the attack by Hamas, Israel’s military has destroyed thousands of buildings in northern Gaza, killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,500 children, and injured tens of thousands of civilians, according to figures from the Gazan Health Ministry. Israeli authorities also ordered more than a million people in northern Gaza to move to the south of the territory ahead of its ground invasion.
The ICJP accused Canadian officials of turning a “blind eye” to “ethnic cleansing through a campaign of forced displacement of 1.2 million people.”
In addition to Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, Minister of National Revenue Marie-Claude Bibeau, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Arif Virani are named as potential defendants in the petition to the court.
Trudeau initially suggested that pro-Palestinian protesters in Canada were “celebrating” the Hamas violence, and declared that Israel had a right to defend itself, while failing to acknowledge years of Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza.
He did call for civilians to be protected but stopped short of directly criticizing the Israeli bombardment that has destroyed mosques, schools, hospitals and other public buildings. Israeli authorities say that Hamas has set up underground bases at such locations and are using civilians as human shields.
However, Trudeau more recently urged Israel’s government to exercise restraint in its military response, which drew criticism from authorities in the country.
“I have been clear that the price of justice cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians. Even wars have rules,” he said.
He also called on Hamas to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields and to release all hostages taken on Oct. 7 “immediately and unconditionally.”