" Israeli officials have expressed outrage over the prospect of their soldiers and ministers being put in the same company as African warlords." HaHaHa!ft.com
The ICC is conducting a preliminary examination into the claims, focusing on three areas. They are Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem; Palestinian prisoners; and the events that began with the killing of three Israeli teenagers in June and that escalated into last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip.
The delegation to The Hague tribunal comes in the same week that the UN’s Human Rights Commission published a report which concluded that Israel and Palestinian militant groups may have committed war crimes during Operation Protective Edge, as the Israelis called their offensive.
Israel, which is not a member of the ICC and strongly opposed the Palestinians’ accession to the court in April, says the allegations are pure politics, part of a broader campaign to delegitimise and isolate the Jewish stateThe Palestinians, say they are seeking justice and an end to a status quo where Israel operates above international law.
“Our goal is to lift the impunity Israel has enjoyed for 67 years,” Mustafa Barghouti, a senior Palestinian official, said.
Were the ICC to pursue a formal investigation, any possible prosecution would almost certainly be many years away. The court has returned just two convictions and one acquittal so far, all against officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Is the Palestinians’ faith in the ICC well-placed? What will happen next? Here are the likely steps any war crimes prosecution would need to go through, and obstacles it would face along the way:
The ICC began a preliminary examination on January 16, after the Palestinians accepted its jurisdiction, which was meant to decide whether to proceed with a formal investigation.
The examination phase alone could take years. One that began in Colombia in 2005 is still going on.
Challenges are already coming from the Israeli side.
The Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Centre, a group representing victims of Palestinian bombing and other attacks, sent a letter to the court this week questioning its jurisdiction, arguing that the Palestinian territories lack fixed borders and other trappings of a state and therefore do not constitute one.
David Benjamin, an Israeli legal consultant and former adviser on international law to the Israel Defense Forces, said “The UN General Assembly has recognized Palestine as an observer but the entity called Palestine does not match the legal definition of a state. It is more of an ambition than a fact.”
Our goal is to lift the impunity Israel has enjoyed for 67 years - Mustafa Barghouti, senior Palestinian officialShurat HaDin has also questioned the objectivity of Fatou Bensouda, the court’s Gambian chief prosecutor, who has made public comments in the media about the possibility of future prosecutions against Israel.
“On a couple of occasions she expressed her opinion, therefore she is biased, therefore she should be recused,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer with Shurat HaDin.
Another issue the court will consider is “complementarity”: whether a country whose officials are accused of crimes has a legal system that deals effectively with complaints.
However, questions were raised about the body after it decided not to open a criminal probe into a widely witnessed air strike in which four Palestinian boys were killed on a beach.
This week’s UN report said Israel had a “lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable” in its armed forces.
Mr Barghouti said if the ICC decided not to begin an investigation, the Palestinians would “immediately” present the court with referrals demanding one.
If the court decides to investigate, the process enters a more serious phase.
The UN General Assembly has recognized Palestine as an observer, but the entity called Palestine does not match the legal definition of a state - David Benjamin, former adviser on international law to the Israel Defense Forces.
However, various obstacles could also be thrown up. The UN Security Council has the right to suspend an ICC investigation for one year, a period that can be extended.
The Palestinians have speculated that the US, Israel’s closest ally, might seek to do this — although any such move would probably be opposed by other Security Council members, such as Russia and China.
Israel has not said whether it would co-operate with an ICC investigation.
Politics could also play a part. The ICC currently has investigations open against nine African countries. Extending its activities outside that continent could boost the institution’s reputation.
Assuming any case against Israel gets this far, senior Israeli political, military and other officials could be indicted.
They might then be liable to arrest if they were to travel to one of the 123 countries that have signed the Rome Statute, the court’s founding treaty. This is a nightmare scenario for most Israelis, who believe their country is being singled out by a UN system with a profound anti-Israel bias [oh pahleeezs].
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has branded an ICC inquiry into possible war crimes “preposterous”. Israeli officials have expressed outrage over the prospect of their soldiers and ministers being put in the same company as African warlords.
In past war crime cases, the ICC has pursued senior officials, most notably Omar Al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who is subject to an arrest warrant issued by a court in South Africa this month — although he defied it to fly out of Johannesburg .This week’s UN report on the Gaza war made a link between possible war crimes, such as the use of one-ton bombs in civilian areas, and official Israeli policies.
The Palestinians, in their presentations to the ICC, are putting the blame on senior Israeli officials. “We are holding all the economic, military, political and other leadership structures in Israel accountable,” Mr Barghouti said.