News & Commentary

Mokhiber: US officials can be prosecuted for complicity in Israel’s genocide in Palestine

The former UN human rights official recommends that a claim be brought to the World Court, since the ICC will “continue to drag its feet” due to political pressure from the West

On her show last Friday, political commentator Katie Halper played Decensored News’ recent video of journalist Sam Husseini confronting the U.S. State Department about the Genocide Convention for her guest Craig Mokhiber, asking for his reaction.

Mokhiber is an international lawyer who served as Director of the New York Office for the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights before stepping down recently due to their inaction over the “genocide unfolding before our eyes” in Palestine at the hands of the Israelis.

Here is a subtitled clip of the most relevant portion of his comments (video of which is also seen in the longer Halper segment above).

Mokhiber praises Sam before going on to denounce the “arrogant” and self-serving nature of the State Department’s claim that they haven’t made a “determination” of genocide in Israel’s case.

Of course you haven’t determined, because your determination is political. And you would never determine such a thing.”

He cited the genocide in Rwanda as an example:

Remember it was the US government, and again, thanks to the leaked memos, that we learned after the genocide in Rwanda that we had the State Department INSTRUCTING all their diplomatic missions DO NOT use the word genocide, because in Rwanda, as the genocide was unfolding because if you use the word genocide we are legally compelled to do something about it. So we don’t say genocide.

So the fact that the US government has not made a determination is not surprising, and it’s not the end of the story.

You could say, however, that it shows that they aren’t taking their international legal obligations seriously.

Mokhiber noted the urgency with which the Genocide Convention should be invoked:

You know, the convention on genocide is not… it’s not just to punish genocide, but it’s also to PREVENT genocide.

So you can’t WAIT until AFTER, you know, the dust is settled and say now we’ll determine whether that was genocide or not. The obligations go much further than that.

And, thank goodness that these are, you know, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide, these things are all subject to universal jurisdiction.

So, they can be prosecuted in ANY court, anywhere in the world by somebody who wants to bring a claim.

That’s why there are a lot of senior officials who have to check before they go to a country whether there’s a pending indictment, or whether there’s a risk of arrest. And I think there are gonna be a lot of names on that list in the coming months as well, because under universal jurisdiction all of these crimes can be prosecuted in— effectively in any court.

The US will continue to block the ICC; the ICC will continue to drag its feet because it does give in to political pressure from the West when it comes to Israel, and violations of— of international crimes by Israel.

He also briefly made the case for US culpability under the Genocide Convention, noting that “complicity” in genocide is one of the included crimes, in addition to “genocide itself.”

But genocide, you know — and the Convention makes clear — you know, you can be a perpetrator whether you’re the head of a country, whether you’re an official within a country, or whether you’re a private actor.

Nobody is immune if they are participating. It outlaws not just genocide itself; it outlaws attempted genocide, incitement to genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and here’s what’s really important: complicity in genocide.

And I have argued that many of the crimes that are being perpetrated now in Gaza by the Israelis the US is very complicit through the financing, arming, diplomatic cover, intelligence support, even the mobilization of some troops I understand as well.

Asked by Halper about what role the World Court might play in this situation, Mokhiber said:

[The World Court is] different from the International Criminal Court, where you can have INDIVIDUAL criminal accountability.

In the World Court it’s state to state. So there would be a kind of accountability that would then— would help to support charges against individuals.

But there should be a claim in the World Court. Any state can bring it if they’re a party to the convention.

I think there needs to be pressure to counter-balance the pressure that has caused the International Criminal Court not to take action all these years when it comes to Israel. There needs to be pressure. And they are feeling, I think, a little pressure now as more and more voices are speaking up and saying this really does look like genocide.

Mokiber’s four-page resignation letter was sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on October 28, 2023, and began:

Dear High Commissioner,

This will be my last official communication to you as Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

I write at a moment of great anguish for the world, including for many of our colleagues. Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it. As someone who has investigated human rights in Palestine since the 1980s, lived in Gaza as a UN human rights advisor in the 1990s, and carried out several human rights missions to the country before and since, this is deeply personal to me.

I also worked in these halls through the genocides against the Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, the Yazidi, and the Rohingya. In each case, when the dust settled on the horrors that had been perpetrated against defenseless civilian populations, it became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocites, of protection of the vulnerable, and of accountability for perpetrators. And so it has been with successive waves of murder and persecution against the Palestinians throughout the entire life of the UN.

High Commissioner, we are failing again.

You can read his full letter here.