Photo of ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday determined that it has jurisdiction over the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, opening the way for the chief prosecutor to inquire into allegations of Israeli war crimes.
The decision comes more than a year after the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, was asked to confirm its jurisdictions in the area. It has been widely approved by the Palestinians who have pushed for an investigation since 2014, following a brutal campaign in the Gaza strip and the continued construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
Nabil Shaath, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “This is good news, and the next step is to launch an official investigation into Israeli crimes against our people.”
Israel, however, has opposed the decision, claiming the court does not have jurisdiction because Palestinians do not have statehood and the borders of any future state must be decided in peace talks. The court has ruled for its purposes, Palestine qualifies as a state.
“Today the court proved once again that it is a political body and not a judicial institution,” stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “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.”
He later accused the ICC of “pure anti-Semitism” for its refusal to investigate “brutal dictatorships like Iran and Syria, who commit horrific atrocities almost daily.”
Ms. Bensounda, however, has cited a “reasonable basis to believe” war crimes were committed after Israel used disproportionate force in the 2014 war and in consideration of its settlement activity.
While Israel is not a signatory to the international tribunal, the ICC’s mandate is to prosecute people not countries.
It has been reported that the case could also include the alleged killings of more than 200 Palestinians at demonstrations along the Gaza frontier by Israeli soldiers two years ago.