International Criminal Court to Launch Full Investigation Into Israeli War Crimes

(MEE— The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said on Friday that she wanted to open a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

“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.”

Bensouda added that before opening the probe she would ask the Hague-based tribunal to rule on the territories over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not a member of the court.

The matter of the court’s jurisdiction must be settled before the ICC can proceed with the investigation.

“This foundational question should be decided now, and as swiftly as possible in the interests of victims and affected communities,” she said.

Bensouda added that “there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice”.

Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelbit objected to the ICC’s decision, saying that the court does not have the jurisdiction to put Israelis on trial for war crimes.

“Only sovereign states can delegate criminal jurisdiction to the court. The Palestinian Authority clearly does not meet the criteria for statehood under international law and the court’s founding statute,” Mandelblit said.

The Palestinian Authority is recognised as a non-member state by the United Nations, which permits it to sign treaties and enjoy the majority of benefits similar to full member states.

In 2015, the PA signed the Rome Statute that governs the ICC. However some countries, such as the United States and Syria are not signatories and therefore shielded from prosecution in the Hague over war crimes. Israel is also not a signatory.

Palestinians Welcome Decision

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian official, welcomed the ICC decision.

“The Palestinian people have invested their faith in the International Criminal Court as an independent venue that can guarantee them some justice and redress for the multitudes of war crimes committed against them by their occupier, Israel,” Ashrawi said in a statement.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said the decision to open an investigation “was the only possible outcome arising from the facts”.

“Israel’s legal acrobatics in an attempt to whitewash its crimes must not be allowed to stop international legal efforts to, at long last, hold it to account,” the group said in a statement.

On 5 December, the ICC issued a report after five years of active preliminary investigations and examination of evidence into Israeli violent actions against Palestinians.

Bensouda has one year left in the ICC’s general prosecutor office.

This is a developing story…

By MEE staff Republished with permission / Middle East Eye / Report a typo

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