Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki (C) leaves the ICC at the Hague [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday presented to the International Criminal Court files it claims contain proof that Israel committed war crimes.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the files he presented to the ICC were related to the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip last summer; settlement construction in the West Bank; the “occupation” of Palestinian land; and the treatment of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
The Palestinians joined the Hague-based court in April.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has launched a preliminary investigation
into the situation in the Palestinian territories in the last year to see if meets the criteria for a formal investigation. The examination is ongoing and there is no deadline set for its conclusion.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said the move was a “crude and cynical attempt to politicize the work of the ICC, and we hope the ICC will not fall into the trap.”
The Palestinians hope their documents will help Bensouda with her investigation.
Malki handed the files to the court during a meeting with Bensouda.
“Palestine is a test for the credibility of the international mechanisms, a test which the world can’t afford to fail,” the PA foreign minister told reporters after the meeting.
The Palestinian move against Israel was aimed at “seeking justice, and not revenge,” Malki explained.
“The aim is to speed up the investigation, which is an important step toward fighting impunity,” he said.
“The dossier that we have submitted confirms the totalitarian nature of the Israeli violations as it is a result of a wide, deliberate and systematic policy, which shows the gravity of violations and helps prove the presence of elements of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and its results on Palestinian people. At the same time, it indicates that in the absence of accountability, the violations and crimes will be repeated,” he added.
Malki arrived in The Hague at the head of a delegation consisting of diplomats and lawyers, in addition to the PA ambassador to the Netherlands, Nabil Abu Znaid.
A PA official in Ramallah said the decision to hand the files against Israel over to the ICC were part of an effort to convince the international community that Israel has committed “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in the Palestinian territories.
The official said this was an “historic day” for the Palestinians and expressed hope that the ICC would open an official inquiry against Israel.
Israel has said the PA is not a state and should never have been admitted as an ICC member. As a non-member of the ICC, Israel is under no obligation to cooperate with the court.
Like a number of Western countries, including the US, Israel is not party to the Rome Statute.
It has not publicly stated a policy with respect to the ICC’s preliminary examination. But Israel is hesitant to cooperate with the court because it fears that such work would mean that a de-facto recognition of the court’s jurisdiction.
Israel also believes that support for Palestinian unilateral actions in international arenas strengthens the PA resolve to seek a solution to the conflict outside a negotiated forum. Direct talks broke down in April 2014.Herb Keinon, Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.