In a week when much of the international law attention has been focused on the ICC and its arrest warrant against President Bashir of Sudan, little attention has been afforded to the news that Iran is currently hosting a conference looking into the possibility of seeking prosecution of a number of Israeli officials for alleged “war crimes, invasion, occupation, genocide and crimes against humanity”, in relation to the recent military activities in Gaza. We have previously covered the question and related issues here, here and here. But earlier this week, the NY Times reported that, while the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, following a complaint from the Palestinian Authorities, is looking into whether or not the ICC has jurisdiction, Iranian prosecutors are currently investigating alleged crimes committed by, inter alia, Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad Chief Meir Dagan. At the same time, Iran has requested assistance from Interpol with the aim of securing the apprehension of the Israeli officials.
This seems like a long shot and it is highly unlikely that many states (if any at all) or Interpol will corroborate with Iran’s request for assistance. Likewise, the grounds for Iran asserting jurisdiction may be improbable, at least under international law, as not all of the alleged crimes are covered by so-called universal jurisdiction. Of course, this does not rule out the possibility that Iran will assert jurisdiction in accordance with its domestic law (e.g. under the principle of passive personality should it be provided for), which may afford it jurisdiction of various crimes committed outside its territory. In addition, the issue of immunity of heads of state and other officials may prove an issue, although Wednesday’s arrest warrant against Bashir points in the other direction. The Times reports that, in spite of the slim chances of Iran securing custody over any of the Israelis sought, it will go ahead with “a symbolic trial in Tehran” and prosecute the alleged offenders in absentia. If the chances of the ICC prosecution in relation to the Gaza conflict are slim, the chances of Iranian prosecution look somewhat higher. Evidently, however, such a trial would seem to lack basic legitimacy and would have very limited legal effect outside Iran.