It's Time to Make 'Domicide' a War Crime

UN expert decries the destruction of civilian homes in Gaza and elsewhere
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2024 6:14 AM CST
Updated Jan 30, 2024 6:52 AM CST
UN Expert: Gaza Destruction Ought to Be a War Crime
Palestinians flee from the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza after an Israeli ground and air offensive on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. Israel has expanded its offensive in Khan Younis, saying the city is a stronghold of the Hamas militant group.   (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

We've all seen the photos showing Gaza turned to rubble. What's not always conveyed "is the profound effect of this loss at a human level," writes Dr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, at the New York Times. As Rajagopal writes, a home is "a repository of past experience and future dreams, of memories of births, deaths, marriages and intimate moments with our loved ones." To destroy it is to deny "a person's dignity and humanity." And that is why he's calling for domicide, the "widespread or systematic destruction of homes," to be considered a crime against humanity.

There are victims "in Aleppo, and Mariupol, and Grozny, and towns in Myanmar," Rajagopal writes. Scholars have also made the case for domicide in the displacement of people by dam projects in Canada. But "in Gaza, we are witnessing destruction that is overwhelming in terms of its scale and impact," Rajagopal writes. In just three months, more than 360,000 housing units have been damaged or destroyed, along with water and electricity infrastructure, health systems, public buildings, mosques, and churches—60% to 70% of structures in all.

"It may not be an exaggeration to say that much of Gaza has been made uninhabitable, as South Africa's complaint accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice alleges and which Israel denies ... but right now, the accusation of domicide is largely a moral judgment," Rajagopal notes. Domicide alone is not considered a crime "in either international or noninternational armed conflicts." Rajagopal, a professor of law and development at MIT, argues we need to update international laws regulating armed conflict to include domicide for the simple reason that it "may make countries think twice about inflicting such trauma in the future." (More crimes against humanity stories.)

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