October 22, 2018

The Palestinian Authority refers the situation in Palestine to the International Criminal Court

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On Tuesday May 22, H.E. Dr. Riad Malki, Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asking the Chief Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda to open an investigation concerning the situation in Palestine.

 

On Tuesday morning, the , entered the gates of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and met with Chief Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda. After the meeting, H.E. Dr. Malki updated the journalists during a press conference, attended also by H.E. Ms. Rawan Sulaiman, Head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands, Mr. Ammar Hijazi, Palestinian Assistant Minister for Multilateral Affairs, and Prof. John Dugard, former Special Rapporteur to the UN Commission on the human rights situation in Palestine.

Minister Malki opened the conference announcing that he had just submitted a referral to the ICC concerning the situation in Palestine, thus asking for “an investigation without delay” on the ongoing violations committed by Israeli officials and citizens. These violations include the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories, as well as land grabbing, the appropriation of natural resources, and the violence committed against civilians. Dr. Malki praised the referral as an “historic step towards justice for the Palestinian people,” stressing that the Palestinian people do not seek revenge, but rather justice, as justice is the “cornerstone of peace.”

Elaborating on the scope of the potential investigation, Dr. Malki clarified that the probe would concern crimes committed in the Palestinian Territories as defined by the 1967 border. As for the investigation’s timeframe, the probe would involve crimes committed after June 2014, month in which the PA signed the Statute of Rome, and it would extend until an undetermined time, thus encompassing “past, present, and future crimes.”

Dr. Malki noted that the Palestinian Authority’s decision to submit the referral to the ICC stemmed from the “intensification” of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, for which Israel has not been held accountable. He also noted that this referral will be a test to the international community’s commitment to international law, stressing that the absence of a response from the Court would be “devastating” for the Palestinians.

Israel, which is not a signatory party to the ICC’s Rome Statue, publicly voiced its opposition to the ICC probe, and threatened the PA of repercussions. Dr. Malki and his colleagues stressed that, in spite of Israel’s absence in the ICC, the Court probe would nevertheless have jurisdiction over the Palestinian issue, given that the referred crimes have been committed on the soil of Palestine, a Member State in the ICC.

However, given the absence of an ICC police force and Israel’s lack of cooperation, the Court would have to rely on the actions of its Member States to enforce any potential decisions.

Questioned by the journalists, Prof. Dugard also explained the reasons behind the choice of the referral’s focus on the issue of settlements. Settlements – the Professor explained – are the most glaring aspect of Israel’s “colonial enterprise,” and the evidence on this issue is huge. However, as Mr. Hijazi clarified, while the investigation would indeed focus on settlements, its overall scope would definitely be wider, including a series of other crimes such as the recent violence committed in Gaza against Palestinian civilians.

Finally, answering to the journalists, Dr. Malki also highlighted the multilateral nature of this initiative. He noted that the Palestinian referral to the ICC has been supported by a number of countries, as well as by a series of resolutions issued by different intergovernmental organizations, such as the League of the Arab States, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the African Union, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Now, the decision whether to follow up on the referral and open a formal investigation lies in the hand of Chief Prosecutor Ms. Bensouda and her office. Time will tell what the outcome of Tuesday morning’s actions will be. In the meanwhile, however, Dr. Malki closed his statement with a vow: the Palestinian Authority “will not allow injustice to be Palestine’s destiny.”

 

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