The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Palestine and Israel, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al-Mezan), the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), B’Tselem, and the Adalah Legal Center (Adalah) welcome the findings of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on 20 December 2019, that the opening of an investigation into alleged war crimes in the situation in Palestine is warranted. Our organisations further appreciate the Prosecutor’s legal analysis that the Court has jurisdiction over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
After nearly five years of examining information about alleged war crimes committed in Palestine, the Prosecutor confirmed that there is “a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” However, despite concluding that an investigation is warranted, the ICC Prosecutor sought a jurisdictional ruling from ICC judges to confirm, prior to commencing an investigation, that the court has the necessary territorial jurisdiction for this case, which includes the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
“An ICC investigation into the Situation in Palestine would serve as a historic step in renewing victims’ hopes for justice and accountability,” stated Shawan Jabarin, FIDH Secretary General and General Director of Al-Haq. “Despite a hostile political climate and the measures imposed on the Prosecutor by the Trump administration, we applaud the Prosecutor for her loyalty to the ICC Statute and its principles of full independence and impartiality.”
Our organizations are encouraged by the Prosecutor’s position pertaining to the Court’s jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine, and by her move to seek justice. Particularly, we welcome the Prosecutor’s rigorous, in-depth legal analysis for the exercise of jurisdiction submitted to judges at the Pre-Trial Chamber for their ruling on this matter.
“Israel’s political, military, and legal leadership got used to enjoying blanket impunity while criminally oppressing Palestinians in broad daylight,” Stated Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of B’Tselem. “To date, the consequences have been most directly felt by Palestinians, while at the same time gradually undermining international law – with potential negative consequences rippling far beyond the occupied Palestinian territories. Hopefully, recent developments from the Hague are the beginning of the end of this unacceptable reality.”
Palestine welcomed the Office of the Prosecutor’s announcement and the conclusion of the preliminary examination, while Israel continued to justify its policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and retained its legally untenable position that the Court cannot exercise jurisdiction in the Palestine situation due to “the absence of a sovereign Palestinian State”.
“It is ironic to see the Attorney General of Israel use the prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territories as an argument against Palestine’s rights of sovereignty and a shield against the Court’s jurisdiction,” stated Dr. Hassan Jabareen, the General Director of Adalah. “The Attorney General could not prove that the Israeli judicial system meaningfully investigates and prosecutes those who are responsible for war crimes either.”
Similar to the Prosecutor’s statement, our organisations underscore the importance of reaching a ruling “as swiftly as possible in the interests of victims and affected communities”. Our organisations call on all States Parties and relevant stakeholders to cooperate with and support the Court in the exercise of its mandate in all situations, including in the situation in Palestine.
The ICC Prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine in January 2015, after the UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer State to the United Nations (UN) in November 2012, and after Palestine’s acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction and its accession to the Court’s Statute in January 2015. Palestine has also referred its situation to the Court in 2018 and urged the Court to proceed with an investigation with no further delay.
Over the past five years, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor received an abundance of information, including from several of our organisations, on crimes committed in the situation and on factual and legal issues, including on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the situation.