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Fact Check-International Criminal Court has yet to assess merit of a claim regarding Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination programme

Refiling to remove duplication in headline

Social media users sharing posts that say the International Criminal Court (ICC) has “accepted” a complaint that claims Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination programme violates the Nuremberg Code are missing vital context. Anyone can submit information about alleged crimes to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) – and the OTP has cautioned that acknowledgment of receipt is not the same as a decision on the merits of the information.

The posts have been shared on numerous accounts since March 13. Several include the headline: “International Penal Court accepts the lawsuit against Pfizer illegal experimental trial in Israel, violating the Nuremberg Code” (here , here), while others include selective screenshots of articles with headlines such as: “International Criminal Court accepts complaint of violation of Nuremberg Code by Israeli government” (here , here , here). The full articles can be found here , here and here . Another Facebook post, from March 14, reads: “The International Criminal Court (ICC, The Hague, Netherlands) has accepted the filed complaint of violation of human rights by the Israeli government” (here).

As of mid-March 2021, Israel has vaccinated more than half its population of 9 million against COVID-19, making it the world leader in such a programme (here , here).

The 1947 Nuremberg Code is a set of research ethics principles designed after World War Two. It details ten principles listed in the “Permissible Medical Experiments” section of volume II of the Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, seen  here and here . The Nuremberg Code was adopted as part of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (here), meaning a violation of the code would constitute a war crime (here).

The filing to the ICC, which explains why the complainant believes Israel’s vaccination programme is “a crime against humanity”, can be found on the Facebook page of one of the lawyers involved (here) and can be seen here .

However, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in an email to Reuters cautioned against the interpretation of “acceptance” in reference to the filing. “We can confirm we have received a communication as the sender has made that fact public. As we do with all such communications, we will analyse the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality.  The first step of that process is to assess whether the communication concerns matters that are manifestly outside the jurisdiction of the Court.  As soon as we reach a decision on the appropriate next step, we will inform the sender and provide reasons for our decision,” the email said.

Some of the articles shared in the social media posts say the lawyers are awaiting a response to their filing (here , here), while the claim itself does not appear on the ICC website list of cases, investigations or preliminary examinations (here , here , www.icc-cpi.int/pages/pe.aspx). The OTP website says: “Any individual, group or State can send information to the OTP regarding alleged crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the Court. […] The OTP conducts a preliminary examination to decide whether there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation.” (www.icc-cpi.int/about/otp)

The OTP email said the office receives many communications and that an acknowledgement of receipt does not mean they have yet assessed – or accepted - the claim: “The Office routinely receives countless communications on various situations around the globe when alleged crimes are reported. An acknowledgement of receipt letter by the Office in response to senders of such communications should not be read as any indication that the Office has made a determination on the merits of the communication(s).”

Reuters has previously addressed claims that healthcare professionals who administer the COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates violate the Nuremberg Code (here , here).

VERDICT

Missing context. The ICC has acknowledged receipt of the complaint but has yet to assess its merit.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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