On the afternoon of Saturday, October 14, 2023, Amnesty International Canada issued the attached, an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on the Canadian government to urge the respect of civilians’ human rights in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank.
October 14, 2023
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A2
Re: Conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Canada must urge the immediate lifting of Israel’s illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip, the respect of international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians by all parties
Amnesty International has closely monitored events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories since October 7, 2023. We write with the utmost concern about the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the Gaza Strip. We are alarmed by the unprecedented scale of violations of essential principles of international humanitarian and human rights law and the grave risks facing civilians.
On October 12, the Israeli Defense Forces ordered civilians in northern Gaza and Gaza City to “evacuate” to the south — an order unfeasible “without devastating humanitarian consequences” as stated by the United Nations — that may amount to a mass forcible transfer, which is prohibited under international law. Israel must not follow up this order by treating northern Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, as an open-fire zone. International humanitarian law imposes an absolute prohibition on attacking civilians. The IDF have an obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure across Gaza.
Amnesty International has also verified evidence of the use of white phosphorus artillery shells by the Israeli army in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza, potentially an illegal indiscriminate attack. White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon under Protocol III of the Convention on the Prohibition of Use of Certain Conventional Weapons and poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering when used in civilian areas.
Israel’s shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant has exacerbated the already desperate humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Water, food, and access to essential services are running out in Gaza’s hospitals, already struggling to cope with the influx of wounded patients. This puts the lives of hospital patients, including people in intensive care, those with chronic medical conditions, and newborns relying on life support, in grave danger and amounts to collective punishment.
Amnesty International Canada has condemned the October 7, 2023 horrific attacks by Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian armed groups in the strongest terms. Rightly condemned by your government, the mass summary killings, hostage-takings, and launching of indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel are egregious violations of international law and amount to war crimes. These war crimes, however, do not, and must not be used to, justify collective punishment.
Since October 8, the Israeli army has bombarded Gaza at an unprecedented rate, leading to at least 1,350 deaths and more than 6,600 people injured. A mass exodus is now underway in northern Gaza. Most civilians in Gaza are descendants of the more than 750,000 Palestinians displaced or forced to flee their homes in 1948, during the crisis known as “The Nakba.” History is repeating itself and risks exacerbating a decades-long cycle of violence.
Inexplicably, Canada has yet to denounce Israel’s indiscriminate air strikes on and full blockade of the Gaza Strip and the forced displacement of more than one million civilians.
Amnesty International urgently calls upon your government to:
- Unequivocally and publicly urge Israeli authorities to immediately rescind the “evacuation” order.
- Call on all parties to prioritize the protection of civilian lives as mandated by international humanitarian law and end indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
- Negotiate for and guarantee humanitarian assistance access – medical supplies, food, clean water, and other lifesaving and gender-responsive essentials – throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories without obstruction.
- Use all diplomatic efforts at your disposal to address the root causes of the repeated cycles of violence and help end Israel’s 16-year-long illegal blockade of Gaza and Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians.
Prime Minister, you have the obligation, on behalf of all Canadians, to uphold Canada’s international commitments to human rights and hold Israel to its obligations. At this critical hour, we urge you to stand on the right side of history and unequivocally use Canada’s voice and influence to protect the most vulnerable.
Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canadian Section (English-Speaking)
France-Isabelle Langlois, Directrice Générale, Amnistie internationale Canada Francophone
Read more about the current situation
- Civilians paying the price of escalating hostilities between Israel, Gaza: Amnesty International (8 Oct 2023)
- Palestinian armed groups must be held accountable for deliberate civilian killings, abductions and indiscriminate attacks (12 Oct 2023)
- Israel/OPT: Israel must lift illegal and inhumane blockade on Gaza as power plant runs out of fuel (12 Oct 2023)
- Appalling Gaza “evacuation order” must be rescinded by Israel immediately (13 Oct 2023)
Amnesty International is an impartial human rights organization and seeks to ensure that all parties to an armed conflict comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Accordingly, in future briefings, Amnesty International will be investigating Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip to determine whether it is complying with the rules of international humanitarian law, including by taking necessary precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects and refraining from unlawful attacks and from collective punishment of the civilian population, as required under international law. Amnesty International will also continue to monitor the activities of Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.
(Header photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)