The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced Wednesday the opening of an investigation into alleged crimes committed in the Palestinian Territories, following the Hague court’s approval in early February of possible assessments of the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority appealed to the ICC to determine whether Israel has committed war crimes and the Office of the Prosecutor had already considered in a first assessment that there is sufficient evidence to open a formal investigation. However, it was not until February 5 that the judges – without assessing the allegations – clarified the doubts as to jurisdiction.
The Prosecutor’s Office, now with assurances of the ICC’s jurisdiction, has confirmed the opening of an investigation into the alleged abuses committed since June 2014, after five years of preliminary inquiries. It does so by promising to examine the case in an “independent, impartial and objective” manner, in apparent response to doubts raised in Israel and other countries such as the United States.
“Investigations take time and must be objectively based on facts and laws,” said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who argued that she will be just as impartial as in other cases already open. “We have no agenda other than to fulfill our statutory duties under the Rome Statute,” the founding treaty of the ICC, she added.
Bensouda, who has asked for cooperation from all parties to develop its work, has argued that, as in her day ruled out examining the Israeli assault on the ship ‘Mavi Marmara’ of the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, in the case presented by the Palestinian Authority there are “reasonable” indications about situations that could be assessed by the international court.
In this sense, he asked for “patience” and reminded the victims that “the ICC is not a panacea”, among other reasons because it focuses its attention on the “most notorious” abuses or on “those most responsible for the commission of the crimes”. “Our main concern will be the victims of the crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli,” he added.
The investigations, however, will no longer fall so much on Bensouda as on her successor, British lawyer Karim Khan, who will take over as chief prosecutor of the ICC from mid-June.
The Palestinian Authority has welcomed Bensouda’s announcement in a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry as a step towards accountability, one of the premises it considers indispensable to achieve peace in the region, according to WAFA news agency.
The cabinet headed by Mahmoud Abbas has called not to politicize the decision known on Wednesday and to ensure that the ICC Prosecutor’s Office works free of coercion or threats, while it has slipped that the Israeli government must provide the necessary assistance.
However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already made it clear that, for him, this entire investigation is “pure anti-Semitism.” “It has been decided that our brave soldiers fighting against the cruel terrorists are actually the terrorists,” he lamented, according to ‘The Jerusalem Post’.
The Israeli leader also regretted that “building a house in the eternal capital, Jerusalem, is a war crime”, in an apparent allusion to the expansionist plans in territories occupied in 1967 and questioned, among other international actors, by the UN.