Mass Graves and the Hospital ash-Shifa Massacre : Its Relevance to ICC Evidence

Mass Graves and the Hospital ash-Shifa Massacre : Its Relevance to ICC Evidence

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan released a press statement on May 20, 2024, highlighting the filing of applications for warrants of arrest against Hamas resistance leaders allegedly for crimes of extermination, murder, and torture. Israeli Zionist leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant too face accusations of starving Gazans, the inhuman treatment of civilians and attacking Gaza. However, the differing tone and specificity of these accusations raise concerns about the ICC's impartiality. Hamas leaders seem to bear a disproportionate share of the accusations, while the discovery of mass graves at al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals, indicating potential crimes against humanity and committed by the occupying regime, apparently have been dismissed.

First and foremost, it is important to note that the ICC had considered the involvement of high-ranking officials and military personnel in this investigation, ensuring that accountability would extend beyond low-level operatives to those who possibly orchestrated and oversaw the crimes. Nonetheless, video footage released and shared on Instagram reveals that IDF militants issued warnings and threats to the civilians in the hospital who were forcibly evicted while the hospital was thick with smoke from within the complex, eventually resulting in fatalities following the hospital’s decimation. Another footage shows the IDF re-attacked al-Shifa, only to face retaliation from Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades. In this situation, Palestinians have the right to retaliate according to UNGA, but the ICC failed to consider this.

It is imperative to note that the IDF launched a surprise attack on al-Shifa hospital despite knowing there were only innocent civilians present within the premises, yet still claimed Hamas fighters were there. Even when IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari asserted that no civilians taking refuge in the hospital were injured and that the forces also supplied food, water, and medicine to the Palestinians sheltering there, footage from the WHO shows the complete destruction of the hospital, which claimed the lives of medical staff and patients, and a mass makeshift grave on the hospital grounds.

A similar catastrophe happened to Al Ahli Arab Hospital, where more than 1,500 civilians were reportedly killed and injured, as revealed in a video posted on Instagram showing the bodies of murdered Palestinians. The intentional bombing of such facilities by the IDF not only violates international humanitarian law but also demonstrates a disregard for the lives of innocent civilians. Despite the comprehensive body of evidence linking Israel and the IDF to the hospital bombings and mass graves, the ICC’s omission of this evidence casts doubt on their investigations, emphasizing the need for transparent and credible accountability.

Besides the comprehensive evidence collection, the ICC's dismissal of the documentation of human rights violations raises significant concerns. Under the ICC statute, it is considered a war crime if there are confirmed cases of people being killed while having their hands tied behind their backs and were not active combatants. This implies that civilians—highly likely among the victims in the mass grave—were executed by the IDF, as evidenced by video footage provided by eyewitnesses. However, the ICC does not seem to take this matter into account as part of the connection to IDF or Israel’s criminal actions. This disjunction between the documented evidence and the ICC's apparent disregard not only undermines the legitimacy of international justice mechanisms but also sets a troubling precedent for accountability in conflict zones. By failing to consider clear instances of war crimes especially committed by Zionists, as substantiated by credible eyewitness footage and detailed reports, the ICC risks eroding trust in its mandate to uphold international law impartially.

Additionally, Palestinian media has been monitoring videos posted by Israeli militants on their social media platforms documenting their humiliation of Palestinians, where the Palestinians’ hands are tied and many had their clothes stripped from their bodies—findings that are consistent with UN reports on the mass graves. This evidence provides more credibility compared to the accusations against Hamas leaders for rape and torture, for which there has not been any credible source. This discrepancy raises questions about the thoroughness and genuineness of the ICC investigations and their methodology in gathering firsthand accounts. Therefore, the apparent imbalance in the credibility and substantiation of evidence between the two sets of accusations not only underscores potential biases but also calls for a critical re-evaluation of the standards and procedures employed by international bodies like the ICC in conflict zones.

Though the ICC claims neutrality, their actions seem biased or influenced by potential external factors such as a pro-Israel agenda. For instance, the U.S. State Department’s report on mass graves which it deemed “troubling,” likely influenced the ICC in not pursuing the mass graves issue. Israel’s claims of respectful reburial of non-Israeli bodies contrast sharply with documented evidence of IDF actions since October 7, indicating a pattern of civilian atrocities under the guise of targeting Hamas. This discrepancy underscores the complexities and potential biases influencing international judicial processes.

 - Maszsyuhada Maszri is an intern at the Research and Publications department of IAIS Malaysia. Currently pursuing a master's degree in Southeast Asian history at Universiti Malaya.