London, 18th December 2023- Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron have now called for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in relation to Israel and Gaza. Hours later, leader of the opposition Keir Starmer also called for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’. With the proliferation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) are underwhelmed by the lack of leadership demonstrated by both Starmer and Sunak in the seventy-two days that it took for them to call for a ceasefire.
The language represents a departure from the rhetoric used by both individuals so far. On October 14th and 15th respectively, Sunak and Starmer were issued with notices of intention to prosecute UK politicians for their role in aiding and abetting war crimes. At the time, both politicians were defending Israel’s right to defend itself without mention of international humanitarian law (IHL). Starmer even said Israel’s right to defend itself extends to collective punishment including the withholding of food, water and electricity to Gaza.
Following ICJP’s initial notices, Sunak and Starmer began to use the language of IHL when discussing ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’, but neither politician called for a ceasefire. On the 15th November, the Conservatives voted against calling for a ceasefire and Labour abstained in an amendment to the King’s Speech.
It is encouraging to see that both leaders are moving in the right direction in terms of calling for a ceasefire. However, ICJP do not believe these calls go far enough in emphasising the urgency of the situation to end the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Gaza. In his opinion piece, Cameron argued that an immediate ceasefire would not facilitate a “peace lasting for days, years, generations”. It is reckless to not emphasise the urgency of ending the hostilities at a time when civilians are being killed at a genocidal level.
This weekend, a mother and daughter were killed by Israeli soldiers in a church in Gaza, while it also emerged that three Israeli hostages were killed by Israel Defence Forces despite them holding a white flag. The urgency for an immediate ceasefire to protect civilian life could not be more apparent.
In contrast to the position of the UK government and Opposition, France and Ireland called for an ‘immediate and durable truce’ and a ‘full and immediate ceasefire’ respectively. The UK continues to lag behind other Western European countries in addressing the response to Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
ICJP Director Tayab Ali said:
“This is a tiptoe in the right direction when we are still miles away from anything resembling meaningful action. The only way a ceasefire can truly be ‘sustainable’ is if the killing of Palestinian civilians stops immediately and international humanitarian law is upheld.
It’s remarkable that it has taken Sunak and Starmer this long to call for a ceasefire and more remarkable still how weak and watered down these calls are.”
Notes to Editors:
- The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.
- For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact the ICJP news desk at [email protected].