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ICC rejects Israeli claim war crimes probe of political nature

The International Criminal Court(ICC) released a fact sheet on Monday on the recent ruling that it has jurisdiction to open a criminal investigation into Israeli “war crimes” in occupied Palestinian territories, rejecting the claim by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that the decision proved that the court was politicly motivated.

Recently, the International Criminal Court said that its jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by ‘Israel’ in the 1967 war, clearing the way for its chief prosecutor to open a war crimes probe into Israeli war crimes.

“The Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine … extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” the judges said.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in 2019 that there was a reasonable basis to open a war crimes probe into Israeli war crimes against native Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

But she asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case.

In one section, answering the direct question of whether the decision was political, the document states, “No. The issues raised by the Prosecutor in its Request clearly raised legal questions on the Court’s jurisdiction which required a legal answer by the Chamber.”

The document also answers the question if this decision can be subjected to appeal.

“Yes, it can be appealed by the party who sought the ruling, that is the Prosecutor,” it states.

“It is possible to appeal decisions of this kind—which were rendered under article 19(3) of the Statute— by a “party” if the conditions in article 82(1)(a) of the Statute are met. This should be done not later than five days from the date upon which the party filing the appeal is notified of the decision.”

Answering the question of can the ICC subject states to its jurisdiction while they are not state parties, the document states, “No. The ICC can only investigate and prosecute individuals, not States. Furthermore, States that are not parties to the Rome Statute have no obligations toward the ICC under that treaty.”

“Nevertheless, individual nationals of such States may be subject to the Court’s
jurisdiction under certain circumstances. This is entirely different from the question whether a State has obligations under a treaty.”

Regarding the comments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other states, the Court states that it is an “independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under
international law.”

“The Court acts strictly within the legal framework and the jurisdictional competence bestowed upon it by the Rome Statute. The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law.”

Israeli PM Netanyahu condemned the ICC decision, “Today the ICC proved once again that it is a political body and not a judicial institution.”

“The ICC ignores the real war crimes and instead pursues the State of Israel, a state with a strong democratic government that sanctifies the rule of law, and is not a member of the ICC,” he added.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan also called the move a “distorted and anti-Semitic decision.”

Also, several countries, including the US, Germany, Hungary, Canada, Australia, and the Czech Republic have expressed opposition to the ICC ruling.

Palestine has asked the court to look into Israeli war crimes during its 2014 war against the Gaza Strip, when the Israelis killed 2147 Palestinians including women and children, and wounded 10870 others, as well as Israel’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.