The Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that the ICC has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed in the territory of Palestine thus moving forward to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel since 13 June 2014.
The Court ruled that Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute and confirmed the Court’s territorial jurisdiction extends to Gaza, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
An investigation could lead to indictments against members of the Israel Defense Forces, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, and members of the Israeli authorities.
Australia was among a small number of States Parties who intervened in an effort to stop an investigation from proceeding, arguing that Palestine was not a State and therefore not a State Party to the Rome Statute.
Australia and Palestine were both elected as members of the 18 member States that make up the ICC’s Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties. Australia never objected to Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute.
Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, Ms Rawan Arraf said:
“This is a major breakthrough and a huge advance for those all around the world fighting to end impunity for serious international crimes.”
“Australia’s position has been rejected by the majority of the Court. It is Australia who played politics and lost. We hope Australia will now support the right of all victims to access justice equally, and end selective support for justice and accountability.”
“Today’s decision is the result of decades long struggle led by Palestinian human rights defenders, victims’ communities and civil society organisations, against a backdrop of daily violence and an aggressive amount of political pressure and lobbying, in attempts to bury an investigation and grant impunity to perpetrators of atrocity crimes.”
“Once again, an international court has affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The Court has recognised that serious harms the Palestinians have endured and continue to endure, cannot be ignored.”
Israel intends to ask dozens of allies to convey a “discreet message” to Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), tomorrow and urge her to not move forward with an investigation against Israel on alleged war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, two Israeli officials tell Axios.
Israel is very concerned any investigation could lead to international arrest warrants against Israel officials and military officers. The Israelis are also concerned such an investigation will boost BDS campaigns against Israel.
The Israeli ambassadors were asked to tell friendly countries that Israel wants to open special channels of dialogue that will focus on the ICC issue.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to send letters to dozens of leaders around the world asking for their support in countering any investigation.
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi are expected to make phone call to several of their counterpart in main world powers and allies to discuss the issue.
Bensouda announced the potential investigation into Israel and Hamas over alleged war crimes during the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as the construction of West Bank settlements by Israel, in December 2019, and Israel and the Trump administration immediately began attempting to mobilize opposition to try to convince the judges to block it.