The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Wednesday (3) the opening of an official investigation into possible crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In a landmark resolution, the Netherlands-based Hague court ruled on February 5 that it had jurisdiction in the case – the news was criticized by Washington and Jerusalem, but welcomed by the Palestinian Authority. We are a family business.
The agency’s attorney general, Fatou Bensouda, said on Wednesday that the investigation would be conducted “with complete independence and objectivity” and that it would cover crimes allegedly committed – on both sides – since June 13. 2014 in the territory.
“At the end of the day, our main concern must be with the victims of the crimes,” he said.
Unlike Palestine, Israel has not joined the ICC and is opposed to opening a judicial inquiry – Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called Wednesday’s decision “political”.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also condemned the announcement, saying the decision reflected “the very essence of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington strongly opposed the announcement, adding that the United States was seriously concerned about attempts by the court to exercise jurisdiction over Israel.
The Palestinian Authority, for its part, said in a statement that the investigation was “necessary and urgent”, pledging to provide “all the assistance” necessary for the tribunal.
George Giacaman, Palestinian political analyst and professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said the decision showed that the Palestinian leadership’s strategy of appealing to global institutions had had some success.
For him, although the investigation could still take years, in the future “the Israelis will be more careful when targeting Palestinian civilians.”
The Islamic group Hamas, which controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, has defended its actions in the conflict.
“We welcome the decision of the ICC to investigate the Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the road to justice, ”said Hazem Qassem, spokesperson for the group.
In December 2019, Bensouda said war crimes were or were being committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and wanted a full investigation after a five-year preliminary investigation by his office.
In February, the Brazilian government rallied around Israel and sent a letter to the ICC indicating that the country wanted to participate as an “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) in the preliminary investigation.
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six Day War and subsequently annexed East Jerusalem. Today, these territories are home to at least 5 million Palestinians, who live under Israeli occupation.
The investigation will be the first major test for the new ICC chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, a British lawyer appointed to replace Bensouda, who will resign in June.
Bensouda has been the target of sanctions by the Donald Trump administration for deciding to investigate alleged war crimes committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Israel’s Public Affairs Committee lobby group urged President Joe Biden to maintain sanctions against court officials who seek what he called “illegitimate and politically motivated investigations in the United States and Israel “.
The ICC is a court of last resort created to investigate war crimes, against humanity and genocide when a country is unable or unwilling to do so.