On Tuesday, 16 January, West Yorkshire MPs Imran Hussain and Richard Burgon took a significant step in addressing the ongoing conflict in Gaza by organising the first in a series of parliamentary meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to gather data and evidence concerning the alleged war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. The event drew the attention of leading experts, including representatives from Amnesty International, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians, and the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK.
During the packed meeting, attended by around 40 parliamentarians’ powerful testimony was provided, shedding light on the mounting evidence of war crimes. As of 15 January, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, the conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 25,000 Palestinians and left over 63,000 wounded since its initiation on 7 October. The genesis of the conflict is believed to be an attack by Hamas on Israel during the Supernova festival, which has resulted in more than 1,300 Israelis killed, and more than 240 taken as hostages. Subsequently, Israel launched a prolonged attack on Gaza, with over 70% of reported casualties being women and children.
The international community has responded with widespread protests, condemning Israel’s actions and labelling them as genocidal. South Africa has even filed an application with the International Court of Justice to put Israel on trial for war crimes.
MP Richard Burgon, representing East Leeds, expressed his concern during the parliamentary meeting, stating, “We believe that as politicians, we cannot stand by while potential war crimes are carried out.” He criticised the UK government for its failure to demand an immediate ceasefire, giving what he called a “green light” to Israel’s actions in violation of international law.
MP Imran Hussain, representing Bradford East, emphasised the responsibility of the UK government, as a founding member of the United Nations and a signatory of the ICC, to hold those who committed war crimes accountable. He outlined plans for further meetings with legal and human rights experts to inform MPs and exert pressure on the government to demand a ceasefire and justice.
He said: “What prompted the meeting was the powerful testimony of Professor Ghassan Abu Sittah, who detailed horrific scenes he witnessed during his time working in hospitals in Gaza in parliament”.
The Yorkshire MPs said that one of the key aims of the informal series of meetings is to “make our own submissions to the International Criminal Courts and to other bodies who are looking for evidence of war crimes.”
The MP for Bradford East went on to explain that legal experts and human rights groups will inform MPs about potential Israeli war crimes in Gaza adding some grim facts. He said: “Over 60000 of Gaza’s population, three of every hundred people in Gaza have been injured and 1.9 million people have been forcibly displaced.”
Guest speaker Dr. Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador, described the situation in Gaza as a “war of choice” and accused the Israeli government of a deliberate campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing. He highlighted the dire conditions in Gaza, where the population is being starved, facing a severe hunger crisis and malnutrition.
Professor Zomlot told the room: “South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ is the first serious international effort, as a result of the international community’s failure in its duty to protect civilians.
“The Israeli Prime Minister is not only conducting a war of vengeance but a war for his own political soul.
He continued: “Before we establish the political track, we must establish the legal track because the way forward has to include accountability, which has been lacking for a long time. It is to bring justice to the victims of the last 100 days and the last 75 years. But to deter future crime.
“Enough! I as a human being will spend the rest of my life on the never again.
“Never again we shall allow this to happen to children.
“Never again should we allow to normalise mass murder of families, to normalise the mass destruction of homes, of churches and mosques.
“Believing in the international judicial system using every legal venue possible in the Hague or elsewhere is the best way to actually resolve the issue.”
The meetings organised by MPs Richard Burgon and Imran Hussain aim to make submissions to the International Criminal Court and other relevant bodies, presenting evidence of potential war crimes. The next sessions will involve discussions on attacks on the media and the healthcare system.
In conclusion, this series of parliamentary meetings seeks to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, bring attention to alleged war crimes, and pressure the UK government to take a stand against these actions. The international community continues to grapple with the complexities of the conflict, with the hope that legal avenues will bring justice to the victims and deter future atrocities.