Pales­tine sub­mits ICC re­fer­ral to open probe into ‘Is­rael crimes’

The Miracle - - National & Int - Source: Al-Jazeera

For the first time, the Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment has submitted a re­fer­ral to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) call­ing on prose­cu­tors to open an im­me­di­ate investigation into what it called Is­raeli crimes in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity For­eign Min­is­ter Riyad al-Malki ar­rived on Tues­day at the in­de­pen­dent court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, to meet with Prose­cu­tor Fa­tou Ben­souda. “The State of Pales­tine took an im­por­tant and his­toric step to­wards jus­tice for the Pales­tinian peo­ple who con­tinue to suf­fer from on­go­ing, wide­spread and sys­tem­atic crimes,” said Malki in a press con­fer­ence after the meet­ing. Malki said the re­fer­ral ad­dressed a myr­iad of is­sues, in­clud­ing “set­tle­ment ex­pan­sion, land grabs, il­le­gal ex­ploita­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources, as well as the bru­tal and cal­cu­lated tar­get­ing of un­armed pro­test­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the Gaza Strip”. The diplo­matic move comes after wide­spread ou­trage in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and in­ter­na­tion­ally over the Is­raeli army’s killing on May 14 of 62 un­armed Pales­tinian pro­test­ers in the Gaza Strip, in what was de­scribed by rights groups as a mas­sacre. “Through this re­fer­ral, we want the Of­fice of the Prose­cu­tor to open, with­out de­lay, an investigation into all crimes that she presently con­cludes have been com­mis­sioned or are on­go­ing,” said Malki. “This re­fer­ral is Pales­tine’s test to the in­ter­na­tional mech­a­nism of ac­count­abil­ity and re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law,” he added. While Is­rael is not a party to the Rome Statute - the treaty of the ICC to which all mem­bers are bound to - its na­tion­als could be tried by The Hague­based court for crimes com­mit­ted on Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory. The State of Pales­tine for­mally be­came a mem­ber of the ICC in April 2015, giv­ing the court ju­ris­dic­tion over crimes com­mit­ted in the ter­ri­tory since June 13, 2014 - in­clud­ing the 2014 Is­raeli as­sault on Gaza. The ICC’s Of­fice of the Prose­cu­tor be­gan its pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion of the “sit­u­a­tion in Pales­tine” in Jan­uary 2015. In this phase, the prose­cu­tor is meant to de­ter­mine whether the cri­te­ria have been met to war­rant pur­su­ing a for­mal investigation based on the in­for­ma­tion avail­able pub­licly or submitted to the of­fice and whether lo­cal courts are car­ry­ing out cred­i­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tions. While the PA and Pales­tinian NGOs have submitted doc­u­ments as proof of Is­raeli gov­ern­ment crimes, and re­quests to open a for­mal investigation, Pales­tine has never for­mally re­ferred a case. In­stead, the PA largely re­lied on the prose­cu­tor to open an investigation on her own ac­cord, which de­lays the prospects of open­ing an investigation. In re­gards to the re­fer­ral, Alex Whit­ing, a for­mer ICC of­fi­cial, said that a state re­fer­ral makes it “much harder” for the Of­fice of the Prose­cu­tor “to stay in the pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion phase for years.”

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