Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor has opened an official investigation into the alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou said that the probe would cover events in Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem since 2014. It comes after last month when the Hague-based court ruled that the court could use its criminal jurisdiction over the territories.
While the Palestinian officials commended the step, the Israeli authorities criticized the move. The ICC has the power to prosecute individuals over crimes of genocide and war crimes on the states party to the Rome Statute. Although the Israeli authorities never ratified the Statue, the court argued it has jurisdiction, citing that the UN Secretary-General accepted Palestinians’ accession to the treaty.
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In the 1967 war, the Israeli military forces occupied East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, and West Bank. On the other hand, Palestinians claim these territories as their future state. Fatou explained in a statement on Wednesday that her office was obliged to act when a party state has referred a situation and there exists reasonable evidence to commence the investigation.
She further maintained that she made the decision after five years of painstaking examination and vowed that the investigation would be impartial and transparent. Fatou further argued she carries no “agenda” other than meeting their duties under the Statue.
On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the decision as “anti-Semitic”. He said, “It found that our brave and moral soldiers, who are fighting the most brutal terrorists on earth, are, of all people, war criminals.” Netanyahu further stated that the court was established to counter Nazis, but it’s now being used against the “Jewish state.”
Meanwhile, US State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price also criticized the ICC’s decision. Hamas, the group which controls Gaza, welcomed the announcement and described it as a step forward in the right direction.
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