I.C.C Claims Jurisdiction to probe Israel “War Crimes”

by Shoubhik Sen
Published: Last Updated on

The International Criminal Court (I.C.C) on Friday, made it clear that it has jurisdiction over Israel-occupied territories, much to Israel’s dismay. Thus, it now allows the Court to look into the alleged “war crimes” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians in the region.

The court justified it’s decision by stating that Palestine qualified as a state on the territories , where the crimes happened i.e West Bank, East Jerusalem & Gaza Strip. This decision comes 6 years after chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda began preliminary investigation of Israel’s actions. This includes 3 main crimes:

  1. Those during the 50-day Gaza War of 2014.
  2. Israel’s deadly response to Palestinian protests in 2018 along the Gaza Border
  3. Israel’s continued settlement in these areas.

Now, Ms. Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, must decide whether to proceed with an investigation or leave the decision to her successor. Her term ends in June.

Let’s look into the reaction out pour to this decision, especially by the 2 parties i.e ISRAEL & PALESTINE.

PALESTINE WELCOMES I.C.C DECISION

As expected, Palestine has welcomed this decision. Palestinian leaders and human rights organizations hailed this as a step toward justice for the victims. Consequently, Muhammad Shtayyeh (P.M, Palestinian Authority) hailed this as a victory for justice.

“The resolution is a message to the perpetrators of crimes, that their crimes will not be subject to a statute of limitations, and that they will not go unpunished,”

Muhammad Shtayyeh

Additionally, Palestine’s Foreign Minister RIYADH AL-MALIKI has commented on this. He said that this decision “opens the door to the pursuit of criminal accountability”. He has come out blazing guns against the “egregious crimes” committed against the Palestinian people.

Nabil Shaath (senior aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas) said that it proved why Palestine was right in going to the I.C.C. Additionally, he aims for a proper official investigation into Israel’s crimes. Abbas himself was the one who signed the ROME STATUTE that created the I.C.C. It was part of a strategy to pursue statehood in the international arena after another failed round of American-brokered negotiations with Israel.

Finally, this decision is actually a sigh of relief for Palestine as it now puts it out of fear. The fear that dragging Israel to the I.C.C would infuriate Israel and alienate the United States.

ISRAEL CRIES FOUL

It’s understandable that Israel did not share Palestine’s sentiment at all. Clearly, it’s evidet from Israel PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU‘s statements: –

“Today the court proved once again that it is a political body and not a judicial institution.The court ignores real war crimes and instead persecutes the state of Israel, a state with a firm democratic regime, which sanctifies the rule of law, and is not a member of the court. We will fight this perversion of justice with all our might”

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
Netanyahu and many western nations oppose ICCs Friday Ruling

Netanyahu even went on to accuse the I.C.C of “pure Anti-Semitism”. Consequently, he justifies this by stating that the I.C.C comes after Israel but conveniently refuses to investigate atrocities committed by regimes like IRAN & SYRIA. Additionally, he promised to protect the citizens and soldiers of Israel from prosecution. The Foreign Ministry said that the court was getting itself involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and driving the parties further apart soon after the Palestinian Authority had resumed security cooperation with Israel. The Justice Ministry called the decision harmful and superfluous.

Israel originally supported the establishment of the international court in 2002, but it did not ratify the Rome Statute. Thus, it makes Israel a nonmember. Being one, it cannot appeal against the I.C.C ruling of Friday. However, Israel’s Attorney-General argued that only a Sovereign State can delegate authority to the I.C.C to carry out prosecution. In this case, Israel claims that West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza do not constitute a sovereign state of Palestine.

INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO I.C.C RULING

Call it expected or unexpected, international reaction to this ruling was polarizing. This means that along with those who hailed this ruling, many were against this decision as well.

International Human Right groups welcomed this decision. In fact, the Human Right Watch (N.Y) called it “Pivotal”.

“finally offers victims of serious crimes some real hope for justice after a half-century of impunity. It’s high time that Israeli and Palestinian perpetrators of the gravest abuses—whether war crimes committed during hostilities or the expansion of unlawful settlements—face justice”

Balkees Jarrah (Senior Counsel OF International Justice, Human Rights Watch)
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (I.C.C)

Favorable reactions did not come from the United States though, whoch expressed “serious concerns” over the ruling. Re-iterating Israel’s stand, USA said that I.C.C’s jurisdiction should only be limited to those countries that are party to it.

Despite the visible outrage, the international community as a whole considers Israeli settlements in West Bank as illegal under international law. However, it has put little to no pressure on Israel to halt, let alone reverse their activities. On the other hand though, this decision evokes a concern worldwide. This concern is that the I.C.C should not be used to investigate any and every case. It shall only be a court of last resort when countries’ own judicial systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute war crimes. 

FINAL WORDS

This is indeed a welcome decision, considering the horrible track record of Human Rights violations in the region. What is even more relieving that the investigation could also cover alleged crimes by the Palestinian side, including that the authorities in the West Bank engaged in torture of opponents and supported attacks against Israeli citizens, according to Amnesty International.

The chief prosecutor will also focus on the war crimes by HAMAS (Islamic Militant group that controls Gaza). Additionally, all other groups there, who cause havoc and use Palestinian Civilians as human shields will be taken into the fold.

It’s high time this region gets some peace. This investigation, if successful, will only add to the positive developments concerning Palestine; case in point is the historic democratic election that’ll take place there. All we can do now is wait and hope for a future of peace and stability.