The Palestinian Authority plans to submit to the International Criminal Court at The Hague on Thursday a detailed report of alleged war crimes by Israel and its leadership against the Palestinian people.
“The delivery of this information is considered a fundamental step in the process of ending Israeli impunity and bringing justice to the Palestinian people,” the Palestine Liberation Organization said in a statement it released about the move.
“The files to be presented to the court refer to war crimes and crimes committed by individuals of the Israeli leadership,” it said.
The report, which was months in the making, focused on Israeli activities in Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem since June 13, 2014, the day after Hamas kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers.
“The files include statistics on settlements, prisoners, as well as statistics on Israel’s aggression and attack on Gaza 2014,” the PLO said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon dismissed the Palestinian move as a “crude and cynical attempt to politicize the work of the ICC. We hope the ICC will not fall into the trap.”
This step is “nothing more than Palestinian public relations,” he said.
Another Israeli government official denounced the action as “a hostile, aggressive move that is a continuation of a campaign to conduct diplomatic warfare against Israel.”
But already in January at the PA’s request, the ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office opened a preliminary investigation into the situation in the Palestinian territories to see whether it meets the criteria for a formal investigation. The examination is ongoing and there is no deadline set for its conclusion.
According to the ICC, should the prosecutor determine that the legal criteria are met, “she can exercise her own powers to open an investigation.
But to do so, the law requires first obtaining authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber – a panel of independent international judges – to open an investigation.”
The PA’s submission to the ICC comes just three days after the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2014 submitted a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which concluded that both the IDF and Palestinian armed groups may have committed war crimes in June, July, and August of last year.
Israel refused to cooperate with the UNHRC probe and has yet to formally announce if it will work with the ICC Prosecutor’s Office.
Among its concerns is that such cooperation is impossible without accepting, at some level, the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Israel, like a number of Western countries including the US, is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty which governs the ICC. The PA signed the Rome Statute in January 2015. As of April it has been a member state of the ICC. The ICC granted it this status after the UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as a nonmember state in 2012.
Israel opposed the court’s decision to accept the PA as signatory to the court.The Jerusalem Post
has learned that Israel has no intention of legitimizing the Palestinian report to the ICC by addressing the allegations contained within it.
Jerusalem rejects the very validity of the Palestinian right to join the ICC, because it believes that Palestinian statehood rights should go hand in hand with a negotiated end to the conflict.
Direct talks between Israel and the PA fell apart in April 2014. Israel believes that unilateral Palestinian steps, such as turning to the ICC, rob the Palestinians of any incentive to resume the talks.
Jerusalem is also not convinced that the investigation can move forward without its cooperation or that Israel is better served by giving its side of the story.
Nonetheless, a refusal to meet with ICC officials would place the country in awkward company, since even implacable opponents of the court have received ICC prosecutors, including Russia in relation to inquiries the ICC is conducting in Ukraine and Georgia into conflicts where Russian involvement is alleged.
The argument that Israel should cooperate with investigative bodies has been heard in recent days following the release of the UNHRC’s investigative commission’s report on the Gaza war last summer, with some saying that the commission would have issued a less critical report had Israel cooperated with it.
The government’s position, however, was and remains that Israel would have been slammed by any report whose mandate came from the UNHRC, a body viewed in Jerusalem as badly biased against the Jewish state.
On Thursday, PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki along with a team of diplomats and lawyers will formally submit their report to the ICC in Geneva. It was prepared by the Higher National Committee which included members of the PLO Executive Committee, ministers and relevant ministerial bodies as well as representatives of all political parties, security forces and professional unions.
After its submission, news of how the ICC preliminary examination is proceeding would not be available until November, when prosecutors publish their regular reports into the progress of preliminary examinations.Reuters contributed to this report.