ICC case against Ursula v.d.Leyen before the ICC for complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza

May 27, 2024
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen at the videoconference summit of the Heads of State of the European Union. Brussels. Belgium. Image:Alamy/ Majority World CIC / Alamy Stock Photo

Today the International Criminal Court has been officially called to investigate Ursula von der Leyen for complicity.

Reasonable grounds exist to believe that the unconditional support of the president of the European Commission to Israel – military, economic, diplomatic and political – has enabled war crimes and the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

The Hague (The Netherlands), 22 May 2024

– A communication is submitted today to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), setting forth in detail, through facts and evidence, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the current president of the European Commission, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, a national of Germany, is complicit in a number of violations of international humanitarian law, amounting to crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, committed by the Israeli armed forces (IDF) against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including the Gaza Strip.

This communication, endorsed by various human rights groups and prominent academics and experts in international criminal law, calls the Prosecutor to initiate investigations on the basis of the information provided against Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen.

The communication documents in detail the fact that Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen personally is criminally responsible and liable for punishment for some of the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide having been committed (and still being committed) by the Israeli armed forces in the OPT, to the extent that she has aided, abetted and otherwise assisted in the commission or attempted commission of such crimes, including providing the means for its commission, in the meaning of Article 25(3)(c) of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Mrs. von der Leyen enjoys no functional immunity before the ICC by virtue of article 27 of the Rome Statute.

Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen has become complicit in violations of articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute through a range of positive acts as well as omissions, in her official capacity as president of the European Commission. Positive acts include the following:

− Military support to Israel: Mrs. von der Leyen, in her official capacity as president of the European Commission, has been instrumental in securing the provision of means, under the form of military support, to the IDF. During the period 2019-23, Israel has been the 3rd main recipient of weapons provided by a EU Member State, Germany, itself the 5th largest exporter of major arms in the world.
− Economic and financial support to Israel: both by refusing to take any steps toward the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and by promoting, amidst the current Israeli assault on Gaza, new EU-Israel cooperation instruments.
− Diplomatic support to the Israeli government: this appears to be a response to the demand formulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu on 7 October 2023, on the international community “to ensure freedom of action for Israel in the continuation of the campaign”. The diplomatic support enjoyed by Israel has been the condition sine qua non of the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide plausibly committed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip since 7 October.
− Political support: the various official statements of Mrs. von der Leyen expressing unconditional support to Israel  have amounted to giving encouragement and moral support to members of the IDF, involved in the commission of crimes against the Palestinian population in the OPT.

The President of the European Commission had knowledge of participating, by aiding and abetting, in the commission of the relevant crimes. Given the wide publicity given on a daily basis to the violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by the IDF in the Gaza Strip, especially since October 2023, and the wealth of official United Nations reports and documents available, which as a matter of fact have prompted numerous UN officials – including the UN Secretary-General – to express their utmost concern, Mrs. von der Leyen cannot escape the simple fact that she knew of such crimes, or at the very least she knew of the plausibility of such crimes, as determined by the ICJ in its Order on provisional measures of 26 January 2024 as regards genocide. She should have taken every possible action at her disposal to prevent the continued commission of such crimes, and at the very least not to facilitate in any manner the commission of these crimes, as she unfortunately did. The obligation to prevent the commission of genocide is paramount in the Genocide Convention and the ICC Statute.

The President of the European Commission has also failed to act to prevent the commission of the relevant crimes. She is thus complicit by omission. Indeed:

− President von der Leyen was, and still is, under a legal duty to act in the circumstances considered, to the extent that international law places upon a person vested with public authority a duty to act in order to protect human life.
− President von der Leyen had, and still has, the ability to act; means were (and still are) available to her to fulfil her duty to act. This is confirmed by actions taken by the European Commission under her presidency, in other contexts (e.g. Ukraine), to prevent the commission of war crimes and curtail the ability of certain powers to conduct military operations.
− Should President von der Leyen have acted pursuant to her legal duty to act, rather than sought to “ensure freedom of action for Israel in the continuation of the campaign”, the crimes would have been substantially less likely to occur, or at the very least to be perpetrated over such a long period of time, and on such a scale and magnitude.

PRESS CONTACTS
Geneva International Peace Research
Institute (GIPRI), Geneva, Switzerland

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