The warfare crime of hunger and its contextual aspect – EJIL: Discuss! – Nexus Vista

On 20 Could 2024, the ICC Prosecutor requested arrest warrants in opposition to leaders of each Hamas and Israel. The important thing crime charged in opposition to the Israeli leaders, Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister) and Yoav Gallant (the Minister of Defence), is the warfare crime of hunger of civilians as a technique of warfare. This crime raises quite a few points, together with in relation to its intentional aspect, which has already been mentioned elsewhere (right here and right here). This publish focusses as a substitute on the contextual aspect of that warfare crime, particularly that it will need to have been dedicated ‘within the context of and related to’ an armed battle.

The principle situation issues the character of that armed battle. The warfare crime of hunger as a technique of warfare is barely relevant to the continuing armed battle in Gaza if that battle is certified as a world armed battle (IAC). Though that warfare crime is included within the lists of warfare crimes beneath the ICC jurisdiction for each worldwide and non-international armed conflicts (NIAC), the State of Palestine has not (but) ratified the 2019 amendments that added this crime to the record of warfare crimes relevant in NIACs. In his software for arrest warrants, the ICC prosecutor asserted that each one ‘the warfare crimes alleged in these purposes have been dedicated within the context of an IAC between Israel and Palestine, and a NIAC between Israel and Hamas working in parallel’. All six warfare crimes charged in opposition to Hamas leaders are primarily based on ICC provisions relevant in NIACs. Against this, among the many 4 warfare crimes charged in opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, three stem from provisions relevant in each NIACs and IACs. They embody the warfare crimes of deliberately directing assaults in opposition to civilians (8(2)(b)(i), or 8(2)(e)(i)), wilfully inflicting nice struggling or merciless remedy (8(2)(a)(iii), or 8(2)(c)(i)) and wilfully killing or homicide (8(2)(a)(i), or 8(2)(c)(i)). The fourth one, the warfare crime of hunger as a technique of warfare, is grounded on a provision solely relevant in IACs (8(2)(b)(xxv)).

The continued hostilities between Israel and Hamas can absolutely be certified as a NIAC, for the reason that twofold necessities for such battle, depth of the violence and group of the events, are met. Furthermore, Hamas isn’t performing on behalf of the State of Palestine, and it doesn’t appear {that a} overseas State is exercising ‘total management’ over it. It’s extra questionable whether or not the continuing armed battle in Gaza additionally triggers the appliance of the legislation of IAC, which would offer a authorized foundation for the prosecution of the warfare crime of hunger as a technique of warfare beneath Artwork. 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the Rome Statute. That legislation of IAC could consequence from the existence of both an IAC (1) or a state of affairs of belligerent occupation (2). Allow us to examine these two hypotheses individually.

Worldwide armed battle

Making use of the legislation of IAC to the Israeli operations in Gaza presents two major challenges: first, the existence of Palestinian statehood, and second, the sensible implementation of the so-called ‘double classification idea.’

The Palestinian statehood. To categorise the battle between Israel and Palestine as worldwide, Palestine would first should be thought-about as a State beneath worldwide legislation. On this quick publish, we won’t delve into the well-known controversies surrounding the definition of Palestine as a State. It’s enough to notice that, regardless of occasional contentions that Palestine lacks a sufficiently efficient authorities, convincing arguments exist to qualify Palestine as a full State. In reality, a large number of States and worldwide organizations acknowledge and deal with Palestine as such. That is evidenced by its standing as non-member observer State on the United Nations since 2012 (see UN Common Meeting Decision 67/19). Moreover, a UN Common Meeting decision – adopted by a big majority of 143 States – has just lately urged ‘beneficial consideration’ for Palestine’s request to improve to full-membership standing. It may be – albeit extra controversially – argued that, even when Palestine doesn’t qualify for full statehood beneath worldwide legislation, just like its remedy for ICC jurisdiction, Palestine must be thought to be functionally equal to a State for the needs of making use of the legal guidelines of IAC to the Gaza battle. Certainly, the notion of ‘Powers’ referred to in widespread Article 2(3) of the 4 Geneva Conventions has generally been interpreted to incorporate quasi-State entities (or de facto States), resembling liberation actions (see right here, p. 566). Even supposing their statehood stays disputed by a number of States, these entities may very well be handled as State-like entities for the needs of Worldwide Humanitarian Legislation (IHL) primarily as a result of they’ve enough effectiveness to use and respect the most-developed norms of IHL relevant in IACs (see right here, §§ 176-185). Such a practical method aligns with the spirit of IHL, which regularly prioritizes effectiveness issues. That is exemplified by many provisions governing the conduct of hostilities that comprise obligations of means and which are thus anchored in issues of effectiveness, in addition to by the practical definition of occupation referred to beneath.

The ‘double classification idea’. This idea was elaborated by the ICRC and implicitly endorsed by the ICC Prosecutor in his software for arrest warrants, in addition to by the ICC judges in a number of judgments (see right here, § 726) and right here, at 1184). Underneath this conception, when a state makes use of power in opposition to an armed group on the territory of one other state with out that state’s consent, this use of power triggers an IAC between the 2 states, which overlaps with the NIAC between the intervening state and the armed group. In response to this method, the continuing hostilities in Gaza would suggest the existence of two simultaneous armed conflicts: an IAC between Israel and the State of Palestine, since Israel intervenes on the territory of the State of Palestine with out the latter state’s consent, and a NIAC between Hamas and Israel, for the reason that navy operations are directed in opposition to a non-state armed group.

Though this ‘double classification idea’ is supported by sure students (see right here, at 233) it has been criticized by others. One criticism pertains to the problem in figuring out which acts fall into one or the opposite kind of armed battle. Some students argue that each one the acts of the intervening state, on this case Israel, could be regulated by each the legislation of IAC and the legislation of NIAC (see right here, at 74). This would possibly result in absurd penalties, notably that the Hamas troopers would then be each members of an armed group in relation to the NIAC and civilians in relation to the IAC. The cumulative software of each our bodies of legislation would imply that the Hamas fighters could be protected in opposition to any assault. Different students as a substitute confine the appliance of the legislation of NIAC to sure acts solely, resembling assaults solely impacting members of the armed group (see right here, at 815, and right here, at 842) supplied that no harm is prompted to anybody or anything. That is additionally untenable in observe, as it’s hardly foreseeable that an assault will solely influence members of the armed group. These absurd or untenable penalties have led some authors to reject the double classification idea and to retain solely the qualification of NIAC (see right here, at 434-452).    

The principle drawback with the ‘double classification idea’ is that it unrebuttably presumes from the shortage of consent of a State to navy operations performed by one other State on its territory the existence of a hostile intent from the latter State in opposition to the previous one. In different phrases, the absence of consent from the Palestinian authority to the Israeli navy operation would essentially suggest that Israel is animated by a hostile intent in opposition to the State of Palestine with respect to any of its conduct. But, that hostile intent must be objectivized by materials acts. For instance, it’s clear that such intent doesn’t exist when the overseas navy operations solely encompass focusing on the armed group, resembling Hamas, and the navy operations are confined to the territory managed by that armed group. Nonetheless, the difficulty is rather more unclear when civilians are impacted in such a fashion because the Gaza inhabitants is at the moment affected by the Israeli impediments to the supply of humanitarian help. This extends far past the scope of navy operations in opposition to Hamas within the strict sense. In such a case, the presumption of the existence of a hostile intent in opposition to Palestine on account of its lack of consent can hardly be rebutted, and the legislation of IAC may very well be thought-about relevant to the Israeli conduct liable for the hunger of the civilian inhabitants.     


Within the case of Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the nexus requirement between hunger and an IAC could be robotically fulfilled. Certainly, occupation is historically seen as an extension of an IAC. Regardless of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza in 2005 and the continuing intense hostilities, the existence of such a state of affairs of occupation may very well be argued on the premise of three different views. 

The primary view, supported by sure students, is grounded on a restrictive method to the tip of occupation. In response to this conception, the occupation of Gaza that started in 1967 didn’t finish after the 7 October assaults, regardless of violent clashes between Israel and Hamas in that territory. This attitude is predicated on the idea, notably shared by the UN and the ICRC, that Gaza remained an occupied territory – or, at the very least, that Israel was required to fulfil sure obligations as an occupying energy in Gaza –  after the 2005 Disengagement Plan. That is because of the management Israel retained over the Gaza Strip’s land and sea ‘borders’ in addition to its airspace. Since such distant management didn’t stop after the 7 October assaults, it has been argued that there was no purpose to contemplate that the occupation has ended. That is notably evidenced by Israel’s management over the supply of important provides to the Gazan inhabitants, resembling water, gasoline, gas and electrical energy.

The second view adopts a broad method to each the tip and starting of occupation. Underneath that view, the occupation may need ended with the withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from Gaza in 2005. Nonetheless, the legislation of occupation would apply once more instantly after Israel re-entered Gaza. This aligns with the place held by some students that the principles of the legislation of occupation grow to be relevant as quickly because the invading forces come into contact with the overseas civilian inhabitants, supplied that the invading state workouts enough management over people to have the ability to adjust to these guidelines. The bottom invasion of Gaza started with the Israeli offensive carried out on October 27 and continues to be ongoing. Moreover, the IHL guidelines on humanitarian aid relevant in conditions of occupation are versatile sufficient to accommodate any diploma of management exercised by the invading state over people. These guidelines encompass prohibitions or obligations of means, which have to be complied with ‘[t]o the fullest extent of the means accessible to’.  

The third view is based on a broad conception of the tip of occupation and a restrictive method to the start of occupation. The latter conception, favoured by most courts, states, students in addition to the ICRC, asserts that occupation begins solely when the invading forces train efficient territorial management over the overseas territory. Accordingly, beneath that third view, the occupation may need ended after 2005, and resumed solely when and the place the Israeli armed forces exercised that efficient territorial management. This includes the bodily presence of the Israeli navy forces, the shortage of consent from the State of Palestine, and the flexibility of the Israeli forces to train authority over the territory in lieu of the native authorities, particularly Hamas. Even beneath such a restrictive method to the start of occupation, it might be argued {that a} state of affairs of occupation at the very least existed in some components of Gaza, particularly in Northern Gaza the place the civilian inhabitants already suffers from famine, for a decided time period, at the very least between January and Could 2024. Hamas was, certainly, complexly dismantled within the north of Gaza across the finish of December 2023, whereas hostilities resumed in that area in Could 2024. Though that interval lasted a couple of months, Israel manifestly impeded the supply of humanitarian help to the Gazan inhabitants, which prompted the present and sure future famine.

The primary view doesn’t elevate the difficulty of the statehood of Palestine. It doesn’t require that Gaza have to be a part of a overseas State, particularly the State of Palestine, since, as said by the Worldwide Court docket of Justice, the Israeli occupation that started in 1967 resulted from an IAC, between Israel on one hand and Jordan and Egypt alternatively. The difficulty of statehood of Palestine isn’t related both with respect to the opposite two views, even when the claimed renewed occupation of Gaza by Israel can not be thought-about the results of an IAC with Jordan and Egypt. Certainly, it’s extensively acknowledged that the unsettled sovereign standing of a territory, particularly that of Palestine, is irrelevant to the appliance of the legislation of occupation. As supported in authorized scholarship and by the ICRC, ‘it’s enough that the State whose armed forces have been established efficient management over the territory was not itself the rightful sovereign of [that territory]’.


Subsequently, even when the State of Palestine isn’t thought-about a State beneath worldwide legislation, or the ‘double classification idea’ is dismissed, and sure approaches to the notion of occupation usually are not adopted, the alleged warfare crime of hunger allegedly dedicated by Israeli leaders may nonetheless be argued to have occurred ‘within the context of and related to an IAC’, thereby falling beneath the ICC jurisdiction to prosecute such against the law.       

The editorial group notes that Professor Marko Milanovic was not concerned in reviewing or enhancing this publish.         

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