ICC to Investigate War Crimes in Palestinian Territories, as Israel, US Object
The International Criminal Court (ICC’s) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Friday said a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories is to be launched by the court, a probe she claimed could result in charges against both Israelis and Palestinians.
“I am satisfied that … war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” she said in a statement.
She explained that she did not need to request approval from judges to start the investigation because the Palestinian Territories had requested the intervention of the court.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu however reacted by saying the “court has no jurisdiction. This is a dark day for truth and justice. It is a baseless and outrageous decision.”
Israel is not a member of the court.
Israeli’s foreign ministry also said: “The prosecutor has been influenced by Palestinian manipulation, which aims to weaponise the court”, adding that “The attempt to turn a political issue into a legal one places a serious obstacle in the way of resolving the conflict.”
The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand welcomed the move, calling it a “positive step forward”
Earlier on Friday, fearing an impending investigation, Israel’s attorney-general published a legal opinion that the ICC has no jurisdiction in the West Bank or in Gaza, arguing that only sovereign states can refer the situation to the ICC and that Israel has a valid claim over the Palestinian Territories.
However, Palestine, although not universally recognised as a sovereign state, became a recognised member of the ICC in January 2015, meaning they can ask the court to investigate crimes.
The investigation is not limited to examining Israel’s actions, but will explore alleged crimes committed by all sides including Islamist militant group Hamas.
Bensouda said she has now asked judges in the pre-trial chamber to outline the geographic scope of an investigation.
“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza,” she said.
Her submission to the pre-trial chamber includes specific mentions of Israel’s use of deadly force against protesters in Gaza, willful killing, Israeli settlements and intentionally directing attacks on protected persons as well as hospitals and medics during different military operations.
On the Palestinian side, she mentioned the attacks on civilians perpetrated by Hamas and other militant groups, their alleged use of human shields, as well as torture, inhuman treatment and the deprivation of fair trial.
Meanwhile, the United States (US) Friday ‘firmly’ opposes ICC probe into Israeli ‘war crimes’ against Palestinians, says US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who accused the court of unfairly targeting the Jewish state.
“We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organisations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC”, he said