The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor (ICC) has announced she would launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem, the West Bank 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 on Friday.
The announcement by Bensouda was welcomed by the Palestinian leadership as a “long-overdue step”, provoking an angry response by Israel.
“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.
However, the matter of the court’s jurisdiction must be settled before the ICC can commence the investigation.
Bensouda added that before opening the investigation, 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 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.
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.
Human rights organisation Adalah has also welcomed the announcement, stating that the ICC prosecutor has made the right decision given the facts.
Adalah believes that, based upon the numerous reports of human rights organizations and United Nations commissions of inquiry over the years, no other decision could have been possible, Adalah said in a statement on Friday. We welcome her position, and we believe that the ICC has full jurisdiction to decide on the concerned criminal cases.
Following Bensouda’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at what he called “a dark day for truth and justice”.
“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,” Netanyahu said in a statement
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. Some countries, including the United States and Israel, are not signatories and therefore are shielded from prosecution in the Hague over war crimes.
Source: Palestine Monitor