Palestine asks ICC to probe Israel rights violations linked to settlements

  • Palestine asks ICC to probe Israel rights violations linked to settlements

Palestine asks ICC to probe Israel rights violations linked to settlements

The Palestinians on Tuesday asked the International Criminal Court to open an immediate investigation into Israeli practices in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip - setting off a process that they hope will culminate with war crimes accusations against Israeli leaders. While Israel has not signed the Rome statute that established the court, if Israeli citizens commit worldwide crimes they may fall under the tribunal's authority.

In a summary report of the court's activities for 2017, the ICC said it had progressed in its work to determine "whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation".

A statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry called Tuesday's request "absurd", accusing the Palestinians of incitement and exploiting civilians as "human shields".

Riyad al-Maliki is expected to meet with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who has already vowed to "take any action warranted" in response to the Gaza clashes.

"This referral is Palestine's test to the global mechanism of accountability and respect for worldwide law", he added.

Palestine gained United Nations observer state status five years ago and later joined the ICC, which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals.

Bensouda confirmed she had received the referral and said in her statement she had "to consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice" in deciding what to do.

The settlements are "the single most unsafe threat to Palestinian lives, livelihoods, and national rights", the ministry said in a statement released on Facebook.

Maliki said the Palestinian move came "due to the intensity and the rate and the severity of the crimes against our people" including the targeting of "unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip".

The Hebrew Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains that ICC lacks jurisdiction over Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since Israel is not a member of Rome Statute and because Palestinian Authority is not a state, but a mere observer country in United Nations.

Said "war crimes" are twofold: the settlement enterprise, which the PA argues "encompasses all policies and practices created to forcibly transfer Palestinians and allow for and perpetuate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to the occupied territory and facilitate their continued presence there, including planning, construction, expansion, maintenance, security and development of settlements", as well as the blockade on the Gaza Strip, where Israel has dismantled all of its settlements 13 years ago.

Worldwide law prohibits the transfer of civilian populations to occupied territories, and the global community overwhelmingly views the settlements as illegal.

The Palestinians believe the settlement case to be their strongest to take to the ICC.

The decision to file a case at the ICC is part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's wider diplomatic campaign against Israel that has sought to "internationalise the struggle".

Jordan and Egypt ruled over those territories for 19 years without worldwide recognition, and then the area was taken away by Israel in June of 1967. Thousands of soldiers are deployed to protect colonies that have water flows seven times higher than Palestinians and have at ir service main roads. It is in line with steps adopted by the State of Palestine over the past years, in pursuit of justice and accountability, including joining worldwide human rights instruments. Israel withdrew its settlements and some 8,000 settlers from Gaza in 2005.