ICC to look into Israeli 'war crimes'

Hague prosecutor reportedly analyzing jurisdiction over IDF actions; Spain looking to limit int'l cases.

shehadeh rubble iaf strike hamas 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
shehadeh rubble iaf strike hamas 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In what is likely to only add to the diplomatic storm which erupted after a Spanish judge announced last week that he was launching a "war crimes" probe into the actions of a number of Israeli officials and IDF officers, a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at the Hague has now made a similar announcement, the Times newspaper reported on Monday. According to the British newspaper, Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the paper that he intended to look into petitions brought by Palestinian groups which alleged that Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead by using white phosphorous in densely populated areas. The prosecutor went on to say that his examination of the facts of the case was not a confirmation that Israel did indeed commit war crimes, but rather an analysis to determine whether the court had any jurisdiction in prosecuting Israel, the paper reported. "It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court," Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said of the Palestinian territories. "They [the petitioners] are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state." "They are quoting jurisprudence," he told the paper. "It's very complicated. It's a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law." Meanwhile, Spanish media outlets reported on Sunday that despite the recent decision by Spanish investigative judge Fernando Andreu to probe Israeli officials and IDF officers in connection with the 2002 assassination of Hamas kingpin Salah Shehadeh, Spain's current status as a favorite state for the application of universal jurisdiction may soon be limited. According to Cadena Ser radio and El Pais newspaper, a law is in the works that would limit the National Court to trying cases with links to Spain. Israeli officials, meanwhile, continued to hammer away at the legitimacy of the Spanish case against members of the defense and political establishment. "This is a subversion of the Spanish legal system for populist purposes. It is not based on any investigation of the facts, but on media reports. Was there an authoritative investigation before the launching of a court proceeding? This makes a mockery of the Spanish justice system," said one Foreign Ministry official. "The Spanish courts don't bother with Chechnya, for example, or Darfur, Uganda and the genocide in Congo," the official went on. "Israel is an easy target, a popular whipping boy. [Attacking Israel] is kind of a fun consensus. We don't even have facts we can argue with. The entire legal proceeding is based on media reports and public opinion." During the weekly cabinet meeting, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the cabinet that the Foreign Ministry was working to change the legislation and procedures in each country to prevent such lawsuits and the damage they caused to diplomatic relations. She added that similar laws in Belgium and Switzerland had already been changed and that Israel was working "with Holland, France and other countries, and even through the United Nations, to prevent the manipulative misuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction." Anti-Defamation League chairman Abe Foxman took another tack Sunday, attacking instead what he described as "the shameful record of Spain's own judiciary." He added that "Spain is in no position to hold itself out as an example on terror and the law. It would be better served addressing its own glaring deficiencies rather than trying to tarnish Israel's independent and highly respected judiciary." Foxman offered a list of examples, including the January Spanish Supreme Court decision to order the release of Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas - aka Abu Dahdah, an al-Qaida terrorist convicted of helping finance the September 11 attacks - and a November 2008 decision to halt an investigation into the killings of more than 100,000 Spanish citizens during the Franco dictatorship. Over the weekend, the Justice Ministry announced that the ministry had sent out piles of documents to Spain detailing legal steps it had taken in connection with the attack on Shehadeh. "We hope that now that they've received the documents, the Spanish judge's decision will be canceled as soon as possible," said Justice Ministry officials - but over two days after the documents reached Madrid, no such action had been taken.