THE International Criminal Court ruled on Friday that it has jurisdiction over war crimes and atrocities committed in the Palestinian territories and can thus prosecute Israeli soldiers settlers and politicians who have killed and injured large numbers of Palestinians.
The judgement paves the way for the court to open a criminal investigation into Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine and its prosecution for these crimes. Palestinian rights groups have welcomed the ruling and called on the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to take swift action.
‘A critically important step towards ensuring the rule of law, the decision also marks an important step towards ending impunity, while ensuring the dignity of the Palestinian people,’ read a statement by rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Al Dameer Association for Human Rights.
‘Our Coalition notes that Israel’s subjugation of the protected Palestinian population through raids, arrests and mass incarceration, are inhumane acts of an institutionalised regime of racial domination and oppression, and amount to the crime of apartheid; it is imperative that the Prosecutor include acts of apartheid in the scope of her investigation,’ the statement added.
General Director of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabareen, stressed the urgency of immediate action: ‘With this confirmation from the Pre-Trial Chamber, and in the context of ongoing attacks on the collective and individual rights of the Palestinian people and Israel’s national judicial shield of impunity, it is imperative that the Prosecutor immediately moves to begin investigating and prosecuting the full array of international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, perpetrated in the occupied Palestinian territory.’
General Director of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani, recalled that: ‘The Prosecutor, in her 2020 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities, recognised that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Israeli military had committed war crimes of wilful killing of unarmed civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip.’
He added: ‘This decision means that the international community will no longer accept Israel’s subjection of Palestinian civilians in Gaza to the inhumane closure and brutal military offensives. Today, hope in the international justice system and the viability of the ICC to continue as an International Court to end impunity for grave crimes that “threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world” has been restored.’
General Director of Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Issam Younis, explained that ‘given the prolonged unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip, and the systematic denial of the right of return to Palestinian refugees and exiles, the ICC ranks amongst the final avenues in which Israel’s pervasive and systemic culture of impunity for grave international crimes and widespread serious human rights violations may be challenged.
‘The Prosecutor must now move swiftly to advance the files, including for the full-scale military assault on Gaza in 2014 and regular targeting of Palestinian civilians, including children. Each day of inaction costs Palestinian lives.’
In their decision on Friday, the ICC said it had decided by a majority that the court’s jurisdiction ‘extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem’.
The court said the decision was based on rules in the court’s founding documents and does not imply any attempt to determine statehood or legal borders. The decision was welcomed by human rights groups. Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director for Human Rights Watch, labelled the ruling ‘pivotal’.
The US Department spokesman Jeff Rathke on Friday stated: ‘We strongly disagree with the ICC prosecutor’s action today.’ The US and the UK government intend to ignore the decision.
Trade unions in the US, UK and worldwide must immediately mobilise millions of workers to make sure that Israel appears in the dock and is found guilty of war crimes. This will create the conditions for the establishment of the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital – a state where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live side by side in peace and harmony.
There is not a moment to lose in launching the campaign!