Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Sunday “efforts” by friendly states to block the International Criminal Court (ICC) from launching an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by his country against the Palestinians in their occupied territories.
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Netanyahu told his cabinet that countries had responded to Israeli lobbying over the launching of the investigation.
“We are struggling against this [proceeding] and, at our side, I must say, are many friends around the world [which] joined the U.S. [United States] in a steadfast stand alongside Israel.”
Despite Israel and the U.S., not being members of the ICC, both countries are now allowing themselves to dispute the court’s jurisdiction, arguing a Palestinian state does not exist.
ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced last year in December the existence of “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation,” and added that the probe would be carried out in occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip.
Bensouda also declared that Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands may constitute a war crime.
But, according to ICC records, Brazil, Hungary, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Australia -all Israeli allies- applied to file legal opinions to the court over the case.
Germany said it would posit that the court has no jurisdiction to probe possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories because Palestine is not considered a state and Brazil said it would argue it’s not the court’s role to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which should be resolved through political negotiations.
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Fifty-seven Muslim states represented by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) asked to file a legal brief, arguing that the Palestinians have sovereignty over the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists and other legal and human rights organization have also asked to file briefs with the court to say it does have jurisdiction in this case.
The Palestinians signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute in 2015 and were then accepted as a member of the court, on the base of their United Nations “observer state” status.
The court’s move to start an investigation followed a request they made in May 2018, urging it “to investigate [...] past, ongoing and future crimes committed in all parts of the territory of the State of Palestine.”
A probe could result in charges against individuals, as states cannot be prosecuted.
The ICC started its functions in 2002 to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.