A full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories is to be launched by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, prompting a fierce backlash from Israel.
Fatou Bensouda said the probe could result in charges against both Israelis and Palestinians, and added that because the Palestinian Territories had requested the intervention of the court she did not need to request approval from judges to start an investigation.
However, she has asked the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to rule on what geographical location it can investigate. The probe will be launched pending a decision on geographical jurisdiction.
Her submission to the pre-trial chamber includes specific mentions of Israel’s (ab)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.
Furious, Israel’s prime minister and mass murderer Benjamin Netanyahu lashed back, claiming the “court has no jurisdiction”. Israel is not a member of the court.
This is a dark day for truth and justice for Israel. It is a baseless and outrageous decision. Israeli’s foreign ministry meanwhile said: “The prosecutor has been influenced by Palestinian manipulation, which aims to weaponize the court.”
The attempt to turn a political issue into a legal one places a serious obstacle in the way of resolving the conflict. Israel’s attorney-general published a legal opinion that the ICC has no jurisdiction in the West Bank or in Gaza.
Probe is expected to look into alleged crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians, including militant group Hamas
On the Palestinian side, she mentioned the attacks on civilians perpetrated by Hamas and other militant groups (supported and controlled by Israel), their alleged use of human shields, as well as torture, inhuman treatment and the deprivation of fair trial.
The Palestinian foreign ministry welcomed the move as a “long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years”.
Rights groups also applauded the move but urged the ICC to swiftly press on with the probe.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the decision “affirms the urgent need for accountability for serious crimes committed there”.
He added: “Palestinian and Israeli victims have faced a wall of impunity for serious violations committed against them for long enough. The prosecutor should have proceeded directly with a formal probe as was within her power to do.
Independent / ABC Flash Point News 2019.