President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is apparently trying to make good on his threats issued before a large pro-Palestinian rally last week saying that he would “present Israel before the world” as a “war criminal” state.
Turkish media is reporting Tuesday that officials are exploring ways to bring a war crimes case centered on Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC). This was announced as the death toll in Gaza soars past 8,500.
Erdogan had told a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Istanbul on Saturday, “Israel, we will also declare you as a war criminal to the world, we are preparing for it, and we will introduce Israel to the world as a war criminal,” according to a state broadcaster. “Israel is committing war crimes” as an “occupier.” He added: the “West owes you, but Türkiye does not owe you.”
But the only problem with Turkey bringing a war crimes case is that the country is not a party to the Rome Statute, which is the international treaty that established the ICC.
Turkey’s Daily Sabah explains:
Thus, it cannot directly apply to the court. However, it can notify the Prosecutor’s office at the ICC through government agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) about crimes against humanity. Under the Rome Statute’s Article 15, the Prosecutor may initiate investigations proprio motu (on one’s own initiative) based on information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. Therefore, Türkiye can issue notices about crimes committed by the Israeli government.
The publication also cited the following example, along with various statements of UN officials decrying Israel’s seeming indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza:
ICC’s chief Prosecutor Karim Khan was at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza over the weekend and issued a stark warning to Israel, suggesting that obstructing the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza could potentially be considered a criminal act. “Impeding relief supplies as provided by the Geneva Conventions may constitute a crime within the court’s jurisdiction,” Khan stated.
Khan has also said, “Israel has clear obligations about its war with Hamas, not just moral obligations but legal obligations.”
In response to Erdogan’s blistering denunciations, Israel has withdrawn all of its diplomats from Turkey…
#WATCH | Turkey: Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads an anti-Israel rally, blames the West for “the massacre taking place in Gaza” and accuses Israel of “war crimes.”
After Erdogan’s speech, the Jewish state withdrew its diplomats in Turkey. pic.twitter.com/7V4Nm0bAkZ
— VOZ (@Voz_US) October 28, 2023
“Given the grave statements coming from Turkey, I have ordered the return of diplomatic representatives there in order to conduct a reevaluation of the relations between Israel and Turkey,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen wrote on X this past weekend.
But while Turkey may have backers among BRICS and Global South countries in its efforts to get Israel branded with a war crimes charge, the reality is that the The Hague court has long been more under the West’s influence. The long-standing criticism has been that it typically tries and convicts African warlords, but never goes after US, UK, or European leaders responsible for overseeing wars that killed hundreds of thousands, such as in Iraq, Libya, or Yemen.