The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said Friday she wanted to open a full investigation into war crimes in the Palestinian territories, sparking a furious reaction from the Zionist entity and welcome by Palestine.
“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.
“In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” she added, without specifying the perpetrators of the alleged crimes.
She said that before opening a full probe, she would ask the ICC to rule on the territory over which it has jurisdiction because of the “unique and highly contested legal and factual issues attaching to this situation.”
“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the Court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”
She urged judges to rule on the court’s jurisdiction “without undue delay”.
The prosecutor added however that she did not require any authorization from judges to open a probe as there had been a referral from Palestine, who joined the court in 2015.
US Support, Palestinian and Israeli Reactions
The issue is highly sensitive, with then White House national security adviser John Bolton threatening last year to arrest ICC judges if they moved against Israel or the United States.
Tel Aviv and Washington have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world’s worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in January 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Zionist entity and the Palestinian territories, in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war.
A full ICC investigation could possibly lead to charges against individuals being brought. States cannot be charged by the ICC.
“Palestine welcomes this step as a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination,” the Palestinian statement said.
Israeli Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu, however, lashed out at what he called a “dark day for truth and justice”.
“The ICC prosecutor’s decision has turned the International Criminal Court into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel,” he said.
The ICC’s preliminary investigation has looked at the 2014 war which left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, the majority civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.