Australian law firm requests ICC investigation into PM Albanese, government officials over Gaza war

Australian law firm requests ICC investigation into PM Albanese, government officials over Gaza war
The request from comes as numerous organisations internationally file evidence relating to aspects of the ICC's investigation in the Palestinian territories.
3 min read
05 March, 2024
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was one of the officials named in the document sent to the ICC [Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images]

An Australian legal firm has submitted a request to the ICC to investigate top government officials accused of aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Birchgrove Legal said in a statement on Tuesday it had submitted a 92-page document to the ICC on Monday, outlining several actions taken by Australian officials that violate the 1998 Rome Statute.

These include the freezing of funds to the UN's Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA), and providing military aid and defence exports to Israel.

The press release also cites the deployment of an Australian military contingent to the region, the permitting of Australians to take part in the Israel's military campaign in Gaza, and providing political support for Israel's war through statements.

Officials named in the document include Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Defence Minister Richard Marles and parliamentary opposition leader Peter Dutton, among others.

According to Birchgrove Legal, evidence provided in the document falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC under Article 15 of the Rome Statute, which allows the court to conduct its own investigation into crimes with information provided by parties that are not states.

The firm also says that the evidence provided shows officials are liable to be investigated for aiding and abetting Israel in potential war crimes in Gaza in violation of Article 25 (3)(c) of the Rome Statue.

This section states that individuals are criminally liable for facilitating, or attempting to facilitate, the commission of a crime.

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The legal firm added that the document has been endorsed by over 100 Australian lawyers and barristers, and was the result of a months-long investigation by its lawyers led by King's Counsel Sheryn Omeri.

Prime Minister has Albanese denied the accusations, saying that the document lacked credibility as the government has supported ceasefire votes in the UN, and made statements calling for the protection of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Defence minister Matt Thistlethwaite echoed Albanese's comments, denying that the government provides military equipment to the Israel during an interview with ABC.

Birchgrove Legal's principal solicitor Moustafa Kheir said that the investigation came following attempts to contact the prime minister to warn him against what the firm believed was Australia's encouragement for Israel's war on Gaza.

"The Prime Minister has ignored our concerns and given the limited avenues we have for recourse under national law, we have been left with little option but to pursue this article 15 communication to the International Criminal Court."

The request comes as the ICC ramps up its investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel as well as Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The investigation was opened in 2021 and has since expanded to include Hamas' 7 October attacks on Israel that led to the killing of around 1,200 Israelis, as well as Israel's war on Gaza.

In the UK, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has also submitted evidence for the ICC's investigation via London's Metropolitan Police. The submission included unnamed UK and Israeli officials, as well as dual-nationals fighting for Israel.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed 30,631 Palestinians with a further 72,043 injured.