THE chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, confirmed on Wednesday that the ICC has opened a formal investigation into war crimes committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Bensouda’s announcement was welcomed as ‘a historic day in the decades-long Palestinian campaign for international justice and accountability’ by Palestinian human rights groups.
The human rights group Amnesty International hailed the decision as a momentous breakthrough with Matthew Cannock, head of Amnesty’s Centre for International Justice, saying: ‘Today’s confirmation by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that she has opened an investigation into crimes under international law committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is a momentous breakthrough for justice after decades of non-accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.’
Cannock went on: ‘The ICC investigation provides the first genuine prospect for thousands of victims of crimes under international law to gain long overdue access to justice, truth and reparations. It also offers a historic opportunity to finally put an end to the pervasive impunity that has driven serious violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for more than half a century.’
Amnesty called on governments worldwide: ‘To offer their full political and practical support to the ICC as it begins its investigation, and we call on the ICC to immediately commence outreach to affected communities in the OPT and Israel.’
Almost immediately after the ICC prosecutor had made her announcement, the administration of US President Joe Biden announced that it ‘firmly opposed’ the decision to open an investigation into the atrocities committed by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told the press: ‘We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel’ before going on to claim that the ICC ‘has no jurisdiction over this matter’.
Last month, the ICC confirmed that under international law the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 were subject to its jurisdiction.
The USA, along with Israel have never recognised the authority of the ICC and have treated it with contempt and subjected it to continued attacks.
Ex-president Trump’s administration in Washington imposed economic sanctions and visa restrictions on Bensouda and members of her staff placing ICC personnel in the same category as ‘terrorists and narcotics traffickers’ or individuals and groups working on behalf of countries sanctioned by the US. Anyone or any organisation that stands up for the rights of the Palestinian people is an enemy of US imperialism.
The latest war crime being carried out by the Zionist regime against the Palestinians is its determination to turn the occupied territories into a graveyard during the coronavirus pandemic. While the Israeli government boasts of the speed of their vaccination rollout, with over a third of Israelis receiving a dose and promising to distribute surplus supplies to other countries that support them, the Palestinians have been left with hopelessly inadequate supplies.
The West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million Palestinians, have received around 32,000 vaccine doses to date – comprising small donations from Israel, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
After an international outcry, Israel agreed last month to give Palestinian health officials a derisory 5,000 doses. So far only 2,000 doses have been sent at a time when this week the Palestinian Ministry of Health warned of a big increase in infections and deaths from Covid-19.
The United Nations human rights body has already condemned Israel for implementing differential access to vaccines as being ‘morally and legally’ unacceptable under international law, and it must be added to the list of crimes being investigated by the ICC.
US imperialism and its allies will ignore and block any investigation that places the apartheid Israeli regime in the dock. The working class in the UK and the US must demand that the trade unions organise mass action to support the Palestinians at the ICC and insist their governments immediately supply the Palestinian people with the vaccines required to prevent mass deaths, and jail the Israeli leadership as war criminals!