The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The announcement by Fatou Bensouda on Friday was welcomed by the Palestinian leadership as a “long overdue step” but prompted an angry response by Israel.
Israel to be investigated for war crimes in Palestinian Territories, ICC announces https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-war-crime-palestine-icc-hague-netaynahu-idf-investigation-a9255246.html …independent.co.uk
Bensouda said in a statement:
“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation 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,” she added, without specifying the perpetrators of the alleged crimes.
#ICC Prosecutor: there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in #Palestine; war crimes have been/are being committed in the West Bank, including East #Jerusalem, and #Gaza. #AccountabilityNow #Israel #EndImpunity Watch: https://youtu.be/B51f1jyIwsI
Bensouda said before opening a full probe, she would ask The Hague-based tribunal to rule on the territory over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not a member of the court.
She urged judges to rule on the court’s jurisdiction “without undue delay”. The prosecutor added however that she did not require any authorization from judges to open a probe as there had been a referral from the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015.
Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in January 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in #Israel and the #Palestinian territories, in the wake of the 2014 #Gaza war.#ICChttps://www.dtnext.in/News/World/2019/12/20215429/1205030/ICC-prosecutor-announces-probe-into-war-crimes-in-.vpf …dtnext.in
Bensouda has been under growing criticism for failing to move forward with legal procedures regarding Israel’s misconduct in the Occupied Territories.
As South African writer Iqbal Jassat wrote in The Palestine Chronicle on December 17:
“Unsurprisingly the most likely reason for it would be fear of retaliation from Israel and the United States.”
The Palestinian government welcomed Bensouda’s announcement.
“Palestine welcomes this step as a long-overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.
Following Bensouda’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at what he called “a dark day for truth and justice”.
ICC prosecutor says Israel committing war crimes, opens investigation https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/A-G-No-ICC-jurisdiction-over-Palestinian-war-crimes-plea-against-Israel-611571 …jpost.com
Netanyahu said in a statement:
“The court has no jurisdiction in this case. The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state”.
Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in January 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war which left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, the majority civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.
The ICC Prosecutor for the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague has concluded there is sufficient evidence of War Crimes being conducted by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza to open a full investigationhttps://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=20191220-otp-statement-palestine …
Today, I announce that following a thorough, independent and objective assessment of all reliable information available to my Office, the preliminary examination into the Situation in Palestine has...icc-cpi.int
Israel and its ally the United States have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world’s worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Palestinians, who signed up to the ICC in 2015, have already accepted the court’s jurisdiction but have repeatedly urged the court to move faster.
A full ICC investigation could possibly lead to charges against individuals being brought. States cannot be charged by the ICC.
(Al Jazeera, PC, Social Media)
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Israel to reinstitute ‘assassinations policy’
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz in New York, US on 9 April 2019 [Noa grayevsky/Getty Images for RSL Management Corpnoa]
December 26, 2019
Israel’s foreign minister on Thursday said Tel Aviv would return to “the policy of assassinations” against Palestinian resistance figures in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports.
In statements he made to Israel’s army radio, Yisrael Katz indicated that there was “an intelligence effort to identify the rockets’ launchers and work to eliminate them.”
He stressed: “Intelligence efforts are currently focused on determining who is responsible for ordering missile launch instructions in order to work to eliminate him.”
On Wednesday evening, Israel’s iron dome anti-missile system intercepted a missile reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip towards the country’s south while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attending an election rally in Ashkelon province.
According to Israeli media, security forces transferred Netanyahu to a “protected area” while security forces responded by bombing several sites in the Gaza Strip without any casualties.
ICC to investigate reported war crimes in Palestinian territories
The ICC chief prosecutor says the probe will be conducted "impartially" and will examine both sides in the conflict.
By DW- 03. March 2021
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says the investigation will be conducted 'independently, impartially and objectively'
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced on Wednesday that her office would formally open a probe into reported war crimes in the Palestinian territories.
In a statement, Fatou Bensouda said the investigation would be carried out "independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.''
What we know so far
- The ICC investigation will examine both sides in the conflict
- The Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed the decision, stating that it will achieve justice and accountability
- Israel has accused the ICC of "anti-Semitism"
- The decision comes after the ICC ruled on February 5 that it has jurisdiction in the case, prompting an immediate rejection from Jerusalem and Washington
- Bensouda has asked judges to rule on the extent of the ICC's jurisdiction in the region
War crimes 'are being committed'
Bensouda said the decision to open an investigation "followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years."
"In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides," she said.
"My office will take the same principled, nonpartisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized," she added.
In December 2019, Bensouda declared that "war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
She identified both the Israel Defense Forces and armed Palestinian groups including the Islamist group Hamas as possible perpetrators.
How did Jerusalem react?
Israel has strongly denounced the move.
In a videotaped statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the court of "hypocrisy and anti-Semitism'' and promised to "fight for the truth."
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called it "an act of moral and legal bankruptcy'' and said Israel "will take every step necessary to protect its citizens and soldiers from legal persecution."
"The decision to open an investigation against Israel is an exception to the mandate of the tribunal, and a waste of the international community's resources by a biased institution that has lost all legitimacy," he said.
How did the Palestinian Authority react?
In a statement, the PA Foreign Ministry called the ICC investigation "a long-awaited step that serves Palestine's tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve."
It called for concluding the investigation swiftly because "the crimes committed by the occupation's leaders against the Palestinian people are lasting, systematic and far-reaching.''
The ICC's role in the region
The Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015 and have long pushed for an investigation into Israel, which is not a member of the court.
They have urged the court to look into Israeli actions during its 2014 war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, as well as Israel's construction of settlements in the occupied territories.
Israel, meanwhile, has accused the ICC of overstepping its limits, saying the Palestinians are not an independent sovereign state. Israeli officials defend their military actions in Gaza as acts of self-defense and have called for negotiations regarding the highly disputed West Bank.
Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War of 1967, and later annexed east Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip is blockaded by Israel and ruled by Hamas.
According to the United Nations, at least five million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation.
Reactions from the international community
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the court's decision signaled a step toward justice for Israeli and Palestinian victims.
"The court's crowded docket shouldn't deter the prosecutor's office from doggedly pursuing cases against anyone credibly implicated in such crimes,'' said Balkees Jarrah, a director at HRW.
"ICC member countries should stand ready to fiercely protect the court's work from any political pressure," she said.
"All eyes will also be on the next prosecutor Karim Khan to pick up the baton," Jarrah added, referring to the British prosecutor who will replace Bensouda on June 16.
Bensouda is under US sanctions for her decision to probe reported US war crimes in Afghanistan. The US has also strongly condemned the Palestinian investigation.
What happens next?
The next step will be to decide whether Israel or Palestinian authorities themselves have investigations and whether to examine those.
mvb/nm (Reuters, AP)
ICC to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas
By CNN - 03. March 2021
Jerusalem - The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced plans for a formal investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories, prompting an angry response from Israeli leaders.
Alleged war crimes by Palestinian militant groups like Hamas will also be investigated.
The investigation will look at events in the territories from June 13, 2014 onwards, and is expected to focus on the Gaza war fought between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, actions by the Israeli army during hostilities along the Gaza fence in 2018, as well as Israel's settlement activities in the West Bank, according to a statement from the court's chief prosecutor.
Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who steps down from the role in a few months, said it would be "conducted independently, impartially, and objectively, without fear or favor," adding, "in the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides."
Israel's President issued a scathing response.
"The decision of the International Criminal Court at the Hague to commence investigations against the State of Israel is scandalous," Reuven Rivlin said in a statement. "We will not accept claims against the exercise of our right and our obligation to defend our citizens. The State of Israel is a strong, Jewish and democratic state which knows how to defend itself and to investigate itself when necessary,"
By contrast, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry welcomed the news. "This is a long-awaited step that serves Palestine's tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve," a ministry statement said.
Wednesday's announcement follows a majority decision by a three-judge panel at the ICC in early February that the Court does have jurisdiction over the territories occupied by Israel. Israeli officials, speaking in a late-night briefing with journalists after that announcement, said they believed the Court was operating outside the scope of its mandate, questioning its de facto assertion that a Palestinian state exists under international law.
The officials argued that what they called the Palestinian entity does not have a fixed territory, because that was a "final status" issue that has not been agreed on by Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel itself is not a State-Party to the Rome Statute which established the ICC in 2002.
ICC elects British lawyer Karim Khan chief prosecutor
By DW - 13. February 2021
Britain's Karim Khan has been elected as the next chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He will take over from Fatou Bensouda, who was hit with US sanctions last year.
Member states of the International Criminal Court on Friday elected British human rights lawyer Karim Khan as the new chief prosecutor.
Khan is scheduled to start his nine-year term on June 16.
The 50-year-old barrister is known for being at the helm of a special UN investigation into crimes by the Islamic State, during which he put his weight behind a trial similar to the Nuremberg trials for Nazi war criminals.
In a career that spans over 27 years, Khan — who is also a Queen's Counsel — has worked for almost every international criminal tribunal in prosecution and defense roles, as well as counsel for victims.
He represented late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam.
How was Khan chosen?
Khan was pitted against three other contenders to replace the incumbent Fatou Bensouda, who was slapped with US sanctions under the Trump administration last year for continuing to probe war crimes allegations against Americans.
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The vote was triggered in New York after parties to ICC could not reach a consensus on a name.
Khan failed to garner a majority in the first round but won the second ballot with 72 votes.
"Karim's extensive experience in international law will be pivotal in ensuring we hold those responsible for the most heinous crimes to account and gain justice for their victims," Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter.
The Hague-based ICC consists of 123 member states. It has been constrained from the start with the refusal of the United States, Russia and China to join.
The court has also faced criticism for mainly focusing on poorer African countries.
Khan's first tasks in office will include deciding the course of the investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan and the controversial probe into the 2014 Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.
dvv/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)
By EDITH M. LEDERER and MIKE CORDER - 12. February 2020
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — More than 120 countries elected British lawyer Karim Khan on Friday as the next prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, one of the toughest jobs in international law because the tribunal seeks justice for the world’s worst atrocities -- war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
His election on the second secret ballot by the 123 parties to the Rome Statute that established the court ends a drawn-out and divisive process to replace Fatou Bensouda when her 9-year term expires in June.
Khan, who has specialized in international criminal law and international human rights law, was widely seen as the favorite to get the job. But neither he nor any of the other candidates garnered enough support to be appointed by consensus, prompting Friday’s election in the U.N. General Assembly Hall.
When Michal Mlynár, vice-president of the court’s Assembly of State Parties, announced that Khan had won, a smattering of applause broke out in the hall, where masked diplomats had voted one by one, putting ballots into spaced out boxes because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Khan received 72 votes, far more than the majority needed, Fergal Gaynor of Ireland was second with 42 votes followed by Spain’s Carlos Castresana Fernandez with 5 votes and Francesco Lo Voi of Italy with 3 votes. One member did not vote.
Khan currently leads a U.N. team set up to investigate allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Islamic State group in Iraq and has the rank of a U.N. assistant secretary-general. He has worked as a prosecutor at the tribunal prosecuting war crimes in former Yugoslavia and crimes against humanity and genocide in Rwanda.
Khan is no stranger to the International Criminal Court, known as the ICC, having acted as a defense lawyer for Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and persuading judges to throw out prosecution charges against his client. Gaynor acted as a legal representative for victims in the Ruto case, which focused on post-election violence.
Khan also served as counsel for Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who is still being sought by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity.
“Karim Khan’s election as prosecutor is occurring at a time when the ICC is needed more than ever but has faced significant challenges and pressure on its role,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “We will be looking to Mr. Khan to address shortcomings in the court’s performance, while demonstrating firm independence in seeking to hold even the most powerful rights abusers to account.”
The Rome Statute which established the court was adopted on July 17, 1998 and it entered into force on July 1, 2002, with a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — but it only steps in when domestic courts fail to initiate their own investigations and prosecutions. Its 123 state parties are bound by its provisions, which include arresting all those sought by the court.
While the Security Council has used its power under the Rome Statute to refer conflicts in Sudan’s western Darfur region and in Libya to the ICC, calls for the U.N.’s most powerful body to refer Syria, and more recently Myanmar, to the tribunal have failed.
Dicker said in an interview that “the court in 18 years has established itself as the permanent address for accountability for the most egregious crimes.”
In the last several years, Bensouda has sought to broaden its reach beyond its early all-African focus including Afghanistan, Palestine, which is a party to the Rome Statute, and Georgia.
The ICC is needed more than ever, he said, “because of the proliferation of these horrific crimes,” but the court has faced “an existential threat” from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.
It slapped sanctions on Bensouda and one of her top aides last year for continuing to investigate war crimes allegations against Americans, although the court was often criticized in the past for its focus on African crimes.
Last week, ICC judges angered Israel by saying the court’s jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, potentially clearing the way for the prosecutor to open an investigation into Israeli military actions and the country’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision a “perversion of justice.”
Dicker said the ICC's challenges include addressing some poor judicial decision-making and having a docket too large for its current staffing.”
The selection process for the prosecutor and the alleged failure by the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties to conduct stringent background checks on the candidates to ensure they met the requirement of “high moral character” has drawn criticism from civil society groups that work with the court.
A diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of closed meetings said the fact that many of the meetings to discuss possible successors to Bensouda took place virtually made it difficult for member nations to discuss concerns during informal “corridor” meetings.
Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Associated Press writer Saral El Deeb in Beirut contributed.