The Middle East

ICC Office of the Prosecutor Targets Slavery Crimes with Landmark Policy

By: Remy Kane

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On March 19, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor announced that a new Policy on Slavery Crimes is in the works. The policy will mark the first specific action taken by an international judicial institution to combat crimes of slavery. This reflects the ICC’s dedication to achieving justice for victims of such crimes and preventing the future commission of them.

Permanent premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. | Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Modern slavery encompasses sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, domestic servitude, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. To quote Prosecutor Khan, “Slavery crimes are committed against an untold number of persons and populations, including child soldiers, persons forced to migrate or be trafficked, and persons detained, disappeared, or forced into marriage or labor that devolves into slavery.”

As of 2021, 49.6 million people were living in modern slavery per the International Labour Organization. Of those individuals, 27.6 million were subject to forced labor and 22 million were in forced marriages. Twelve percent of those in forced labor were children and more than half of these children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Child trafficking occurs in every country in the world and makes up a third of all human trafficking cases. Human trafficking and forced labor generate roughly $150 billion annually. These numbers are testimony to how slavery crimes are a grave and pressing issue.

The Policy on Slave Crimes will aim to take a survivor-centered, trauma-informed and gender-competent approach, and will be “rigorously implemented” once formulated, according to the Prosecutor. It will be in alignment with other recent policies tackling similar issues, including the 2022 Policy Paper on Gender Persecution, the 2023 Policy on Gender-Based Crimes, and the 2023 Policy on Children.

The Office of the Prosecutor has consulted survivor communities, civil society organizations, national authorities, international organizations, and other justice actors to help shape the Policy. To further aid in the process, the Office is also seeking input from the public. External experts are welcome to offer substantive comment on how the Policy can be best effectuated. Such comments will be accepted via email until April 30, 2024 (see more information about submissions on the ICC website, linked below).

For further information, please see:

ICC – Office of the Prosecutor Launches Public Consultation on Policy on Slavery Crimes – Mar. 19, 2014

ICC – Policy on Children – Dec 7, 2023

ICC – Policy on Gender-Based Crimes – Dec. 4, 2023

ICC – Policy on The Crime of Gender Persecution – Dec 7, 2022

International Labour Organization – Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking – Sept. 12, 2022

Lexology – ICC Opens Consultation for New Policy in Slavery Crimes – Mar. 20, 2024

UNICEF – UNICEF and The Fight Against Child Trafficking – Nov. 9, 2022





Nicaragua Files Application to Commence Proceedings in the ICJ Against Germany

By: Marya Al Khoury

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On March 1, 2024, the Republic of Nicaragua filed an Application commencing proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Federal Republic of Germany regarding Germany’s aid and support of Israel.


The International Court of Justice, located at The Hague. | Photo courtesy of the ICJ.

In its Application, Nicaragua alleges that, by providing aid to Israel and defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and, in any case has failed in its obligations to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide.” Such obligations, Nicaragua argues, stem from being a member to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Geneva Convention of 1949, and the basic rights afforded by general international and humanitarian law. Nicaragua claims that, by providing, political, financial, and military support to Israel, Germany is allegedly contributing the death, displacement, and starvation of Palestinians.

Though the ICJ has yet to render a determination on whether genocide has occurred, Nicaragua claims that there is, at the very least, a recognizable risk of genocide against the Palestinian population. Nicaragua’s claim against Germany is along a similar vein as South Africa’s case against Israel. Nicaragua, much like South Africa, is pursuing urgent provisional measures to be released by the Court while they await adjudication of the claim’s merits.  

The International Court of Justice has yet to set a date for this hearing. However, the ICJ usually sets hearing dates for emergency provisional measures within weeks of filing the case, and so, the Court is expected to set a date in the near future.   

For further information, please see:

AlJazeera – Nicaragua drags Germany to ICJ for ‘facilitating Israel’s genocide’ in Gaza – 2 Mar. 2024.

CNN – Top UN court says Israel must take ‘all measures’ to prevent genocide in Gaza but stops short of calling for ceasefire – 26 Jan. 2024.

CTV News – Nicaragua files case at World Court against Germany for aiding Israel – 1 Mar. 2024.

International Court of Justice – Application instituting proceedings and request for the indication of provisional measures – 1 Mar. 2024.

Reuters – Nicaragua files case at World Court against Germany for aiding Israel – 1 Mar. 2024.

UNRWA – UNRWA Situation Report #88 on the Situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Including East Jerusalem – 11 Mar. 2024.


ICJ Issues Provisional Measures on the Prevention of Genocide in Gaza

By: Rabiya Shamim

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On January 26, 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a landmark ruling for provisional measures in South Africa v. Israel, requiring Israel to take “all measures within its power” to prevent acts that could amount to genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The ruling did not include a call for a ceasefire.

International Court of Justice judges preside over hearings in the Hague, the Netherlands | Photo courtesy of Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images.

The case before the ICJ centers on allegations that Israeli forces are committing genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population in Gaza. The evidence brought before the court includes multiple instances of indiscriminate strikes, displacement, and destruction of homes and infrastructure, resulting in widespread suffering and loss of life among Palestinians. The court has yet to render a verdict on the occurrence of genocide or determine jurisdiction over the case.

For the provisional measures order, the ICJ had to decide the following:

Prima Facie Jurisdiction: There must be a legitimate reason for the court to have the power to hear the case.

Plausibility of the Claim: The party requesting provisional measures has to demonstrate that the claim is plausible and likely to be successful.

Risk of Irreparable Damage: The parties must show that there is a risk of irreparable harm if the measures are not granted. Irreparable harm refers to harm that cannot be adequately compensated later.

Balance of Convenience or Equities: The court weighs the potential harm to both parties as well as overall fairness.

Urgency: There must be an immediate need to stop harm or maintain the status quo.

As is the practice of the ICJ in contentious proceedings, the Court’s panel of 15 judges was augmented by additional judges from the parties to the case, South Africa and Israel. Aharon Barak, Israel’s judge, and former president of the nation’s Supreme Court supported two of the emergency measures. These measures directed Israel to reduce provocations towards genocide and ensure the entry of aid into the enclave.

In its ruling, the ICJ condemned Israel’s conduct as blatantly violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Convention) and demanded prompt action to prevent further atrocities. The Court emphasized that all states are obligated by international law and jus cogens to prevent genocide and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions under international law.

Additionally, the Court ordered Israel to “prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” and ensure that the enclave receives “humanitarian assistance and urgently needed basic services.” Israel was also ordered to hold onto any evidence pertaining to the allegations of genocide and to provide a report to the court on its compliance with these measures in a month.

Legal experts and human rights advocates have applauded the ruling. However, Israel has indicated that it would not accept all ICJ rulings. The Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on X, “nobody will stop us – not The Hague, not the axis of evil, and not anybody else.”

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa praised the outcome, calling it a “victory for international law, for human rights, and above all for justice.” While South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor stated that her country was “disappointed” that the court had not imposed a ceasefire, she added that she thought Israel would have to abide by the other orders if it was to follow through on them.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – ICJ orders Israel to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza – 26 Jan. 2024.

Chatham House – South Africa’s genocide case against Israel: The International Court of Justice explained – 26 Jan. 2024

CNN – Top UN court says Israel must take ‘all measures’ to prevent genocide in Gaza but stops short of calling for ceasefire – 26 Jan. 2024.

The Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – X (Tweet) – 13 Jan. 2024.

Times of Israel – What does Israel need to do to comply with the ICJ genocide decision? – 1 Feb. 2024

UN – Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – 9 Dec. 1948.

United Nations General Assembly – Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 78 U.N.T.S. 277 – 9 Dec. 1948

Washington Post – South Africa welcomes ‘landmark’ ICJ ruling, Israel vows to continue war – 26 Jan. 2024.

ICJ Deliberates Request for Advisory Opinion Regarding Israel’s Policies and Practices in “Occupied Palestinian Territory”

By: Megan Qualters

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

 THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On February 26, 2024, public hearings concluded regarding a request by the UN’s General Assembly (hereinafter “GA”) for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (hereinafter “ICJ”). The GA asked the ICJ to issue an opinion on what it believes the “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” will be.

Photo of public hearings at the ICJ on the request for an advisory opinion. | Photo Courtesy of ICJ Unofficial Press Release No. 2024/17.

What is an Advisory Opinion

With an advisory opinion, a court, in consideration of a legal question, issues an answer or statement. Unlike a majority opinion, an advisory opinion carries no binding force. Instead, it is typically used as a tool of diplomacy that aims to “keep the peace.” Advisory opinions are also used to clarify and develop existing law.

ICJ Advisory Proceedings Process

A request for an advisory opinion on a legal question must first be made, which can come from various UN organs, such as the general assembly and the security council, according to Article 96 of the UN Charter, and Article 65 of the Statute of the ICJ. The request should be accompanied by documents that “throws light” upon the question presented.

The ICJ then typically issues an order that provides notice of the proceedings to any State that is either entitled to appear before the court or could have information relevant to the question at hand. Next, the Court invites written statements from those States that may be able to provide information relevant to the question.

After the Court considers the written statements and documents provided, it determines whether it should hold an oral hearing. If the Court decides the question at hand requires an oral hearing, then all States shall be informed of the Court’s decision to hold such a hearing and invited to attend.  

Finally, the Court, after considering all the written documentation and oral proceedings, retire to begin deliberations. Once the Court has decided, it will deliver its advisory opinion in “open court (Statute, Article 67; Rules, Article 107).”

The Issue at Hand

On December 30, 2022, the GA of the UN adopted resolution A/RES/77/247, in which it requested the ICJ give an advisory opinion on the following:

  1. “What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?” 
  2. “How do the policies and practices of Israel referred to in paragraph 18 (a) above affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?”

On January 17, 2023, the GA’s advisory opinion request was sent to the ICJ. On January 19, 2023, the ICJ notified all States that it believed were entitled to appear before the Court.

On February 3, 2023, the ICJ determined that the UN and all its Member States, as well as the State of Palestine, were likely to be able to provide information regarding the question at hand. By July 25, 2023, the ICJ received fifty-seven written statements. The ICJ determined that it would hold oral hearings regarding the question at hand.

Between February 19 and February 26, 2024, forty-nine UN Member States presented oral statements at the public hearings. The ICJ has since concluded its public hearings and retired for deliberation. The date of the Court’s advisory opinion has yet to be announced.

For further information, please see:

ICJ – Advisory Jurisdiction

ICJ – Request for Advisory Opinion: Procedure Followed by the International Court of Justice

ICJ – The Binding legal effect of ICJ advisory opinions

ICJ – Unofficial Press Release: Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in  the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem: Conclusion of the public hearings held from 19 to 26 February 2024 – 26 Feb. 2024

Lex Animation – International Court of Justice ICJ Advisory Opinion International Law explained – 2022


ECHR Halts Deportation of Iraqi Family Fleeing ISIS, Citing Human Rights Violations

By: Rabiya Shamim

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On 6 February 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a landmark ruling in J.A. and A.A. v Turkey regarding the rights of asylum seekers. The case involves a family seeking asylum in Turkey, fearing persecution and violence if returned to their home country of Iraq.

Convening of the European Court of Human Rights. | Photo courtesy of Bianet.

The applicants, an Iraqi husband and wife with four children, voiced serious concerns over the security situation in Iraq, especially considering that they fled due to ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, and sectarian strife. In support of their claim for international protection, the family highlighted the presence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and the targeted brutality against civilians, especially those perceived to have collaborated with Iraqi security forces.

The ECHR emphasized Article 2 of the Convention, which protects the right to life, as one of the fundamental provisions. Similarly, Article 3 embodies a fundamental principle of the democratic societies forming the Council of Europe. Central to the ECHR’s ruling was the applicant’s claim that their expulsion to Iraq would breach their fundamental rights outlined in Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention, which safeguards the right to life and freedom from torture and inhuman treatment. The Court stressed that these protections are absolute, particularly when people are at genuine risk of persecution or violence upon return to their home country.

The ECHR reviewed the evidence presented by both applicants, and Turkish authorities, acknowledging the complexity of asylum petitions and the difficulties faced by people in substantiating their fears within a short timeframe. The ruling emphasized that states must thoroughly evaluate asylum petitions, particularly in cases where there is a risk of persecution or violence.

Despite the applicants’ diligent efforts to establish the imminent danger they would face in Iraq, the Court found shortcomings in the domestic authorities’ evaluation of their claims. While the Turkish Constitutional Court initially acknowledged the credible basis of the applicants’ fears, subsequent decisions failed to sufficiently address the consequences of the situation in Iraq, especially in the Ninewa region.

The ECHR’s decision reaffirmed the idea that the right to life includes not only protection from immediate harm but also the obligations of states to prevent foreseeable risks to individuals within their jurisdiction. The Court underscored the need to promptly address the plausible threat to the applicants’ safety by granting an interim measure that will prohibit their expulsion until further evaluation.

The ECHR concluded that the applicants’ rights under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention would be violated if they were deported to Iraq without first undergoing a thorough reassessment of the risks they face. The ruling emphasizes the critical role of international human rights law in safeguarding security and dignity, especially in times of conflict and persecution. 

For further information, please see:

Bianet – ECtHR: Deportation of Iraqi Family fleeing ISIS constitutes violation of right to life – 8 Feb. 2024

Council of Europe – European Convention on Human Rights – 1950

ECHR – CASE OF J.A. AND A.A. v. TÜRKİYE- 09 Jan 2024

Syriac Press – European Court halts deportation of Iraqi family fleeing ISIS citing human rights violations – 9 Feb. 2024