A Palestinian looks out from the remains of his house in Beit Hanun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority has prevented war crimes investigators from probing actions by Israel and Hamas during Operation Protective Edge, the Qatar-based pan-Arab news network Al Jazeera is reporting on Friday.
Citing a confidential letter signed by the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor, Al Jazeera is reporting that the ICC “did not receive a positive confirmation” from the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riad Malki, to go ahead with a war crimes investigation that was originally requested by the PA’s justice minister.
The justice minister, Saleem al-Saqqa, and the PA general prosecutor, Ismaeil Jabr, formally petitioned the ICC to investigate Israel for its actions during the Gaza offensive. In order for such a probe to be launched, the court needs formal approval from “the head of state, the head of government, and the minister of foreign affairs.”
Malki met last month with officials of the ICC in the Netherlands to discuss the war in the Gaza Strip.
The meeting was held to inquire about the legal procedures required for the “State of Palestine” to join the ICC and sign the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, in order to take action against possible Israeli war crimes, Malki’s office said.
A previous attempt by the PA to join the ICC failed because “Palestine” was not recognized as a country.
In November 2012, it obtained the status of non-member observer of the UN General Assembly – a move that allows it to join the ICC and other international agencies and treaties.
After meeting with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Malki said there was “clear evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip.”
Bensouda’s office said in a short statement that the court did not have jurisdiction over the alleged war crimes, as Palestine has not signed up to the ICC’s Rome Statute.
Nor has the office received any “official document from Palestine indicating acceptance of ICC jurisdiction or requesting the prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged crimes following the November 2012 UN General Assembly resolution,” the statement said.
The meeting between Malki and the chief prosecutor came at the latter’s request and was held “for the foreign minister to seek clarification on the different mechanisms for a state to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC,” Bensouda’s office said.