Israel says it will not co-operate with an investigation into possible war crimes in the occupied territories, challenging the ICC’s jurisdiction on the ground that it is not a member state and that Palestinian Authority, which sought the investigation, is also not a state.
In a letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel says the ICC is “acting without authority” in carrying out the probe and said it would not have anything to do with the case.
“Israel absolutely rejects the claim that it has carried out war crimes,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “Israel reiterates its unequivocal position according to which the court in The Hague lacks the authority to open an investigation against it.
“The unacceptable interference of the court lacks any legal basis and contravenes the goals for which it was established.”
The tribunal, however, has ruled that its jurisdiction applies to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured during the 1967 war.
Based in The Hague, the ICC was set up in 2002 to bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It has the power to act where a state is “unable or unwilling genuinely” to do so itself.
The ICC has a duty to explore whether there are sufficient grounds to open a probe when a new member joins, as the Palestinians did in January 2015.
Last month, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that the court would proceed and investigate possible crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since 13 June 2014.
The date – elected by the Palestinians – marks an Israeli operation against Palestinian militants and an intensification of violence which led to a 50-day war in July and August.
At least 2,251 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,231 others injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.
Ms. Bensouda gave Israel and the Palestinians until Friday to let the ICC know whether they were conducting their own investigations into possible crimes in the occupied territories.
The Palestinian foreign ministry said it had informed the ICC of the “full co-operation… from the State of Palestine”.
Israel, however said it will not cooperate with its investigation into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories.
The investigation will proceed without Israel’s involvement. If Israel blocks ICC investigators on the ground, witness testimonies could be taken in other countries or at the The Hague in the Netherlands instead.
The case is expected to focus on three main areas: the Israel-Gaza war of 2014; violence along the Israel-Gaza border in 2018 amid Palestinian demonstrations backing the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel; and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, considered illegal under international law – a point disputed by Israel.
The investigation puts both Israeli and Palestinian officials at risk of arrest if they travel abroad. (Source: BBC)