ICC To Investigate Possible War Crimes In Palestine
“In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
In an unprecedented statement, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Friday that it would open an investigation into possible alleged war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
The ICC announced it saw “no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, wrote in a statement on the ICC website, “My office has concluded with the determination that all the statutory criteria under the Rome statute for the opening of an investigation have been met.”
She further noted, “In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
In her statement, Bensouda also confirmed that she had referred a question of whether the ICC has jurisdiction in Palestinian territories back to the ICC court. Bensouda’s statement came in response to a legal opinion published earlier this past Friday by Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mendelbit, who claimed that the ICC had no jurisdiction over the West Bank or Gaza, apparently in an attempt to preempt the ICC’s unprecedented announcement.
“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,” Bensouda announced.
The Palestinian Authority’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the decision cheerfully, saying that “from now onward, every Palestinian, who has been exposed to any Israeli crime or harm, could file a petition against Israel.”
Abbas regarded the decision as “victory for Palestinian diplomacy” that has been in effect since Israel’s large-scale attack on Gaza in 2014.
Abbas’ statement was based in part on details of the ICC’s ruling which also states stated “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed in at least three incidents during the 2014 Gaza war” by members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), including “intentionally launching disproportionate attacks.”
A statement issued by the Palestinian Authority in response to the ruling read, “After nearly five years of preliminary examination, the Palestinian people who seek redress in this court expect actions congruent with the urgency and gravity of the situation in Palestine and they rightly demand that these steps are taken without delay.”
The ICC’s nearly five-year preliminary investigation looked mostly at the 2014 war which left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, the majority of whom were civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.
Meanwhile, Palestinian organizations including the Islamist ruling Hamas party in Gaza and other Islamist and leftist factions, as well as dignitaries, including rights groups and activists, highly welcomed what they considered to be the beginning of a realization of justice against “Israeli war criminals.”
In a statement issued by Hamas, the Islamist party that has ruled Gaza since 2007, and published by the Palestinian Wafa News Agency, Hamas considered the ICC decision an important step in the right direction toward bringing “Apartheid Israel” to justice over possible crimes against humanity during attacks on the coastal territory, the largest of which occurred in 2014.
Asked by Citizen Truth as to what Palestinians should do following the ICC’s decision Mr. Salah Abdelaati, a leading Gaza-based legal and rights activist, commented, “The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs should get use of its membership with the Executive Office of the ICC, by urging all parties concerned to enable the ICC’s prosecutor to immediately open a probe into possible Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Meanwhile, Deputy-Secretary General of the League of Arab States for the occupied Palestinian territories, Said Abuali, was reported by the Palestinian Maan News Agency as hailing the ICC’s announcement. Abuali described it as “the most imperative decision, in a time when the occupied Palestinian territories are being exposed to feverish illegal Israeli settlement activities and violations of basic Palestinian rights.”
Netanyahu: A Dark Day Justice
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the ICC decision by dubbing it a “dark day” for truth and justice.
“The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state,” he said in a statement published by Reuters.
Commenting on the new ruling by the ICC, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Netanyahu by telling Reuters “the United States did not believe that Palestinians qualified as a sovereign state.”
He added, “We firmly oppose this and any other actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”
While Israel has not joined the ICC, the Palestinian Authority became a member in the year 2015.