US Pressuring ICC Not to Open War Crimes Probe Against Israel*
The US and other western powers have exerted pressure on the International Criminal Court at the Hague to prevent a war crimes probe of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip, The Guardian reported on Monday, quoting former court officials.
During Operation Protective Edge, the Palestinian Authority has threatened to request that the court look into allegations that the civilian deaths in Gaza during the IDF’s operation constitute a war crime.
According to the report, the issue is among the matters being discussed at cease-fire talks in Cairo.
Palestinians requested that the court probe Israel for war crimes in 2009 , following Operation Cast Lead, however that request came before the Palestinians were recognized as a non-member observer state at the United Nations in 2012.
The ICC itself is divided on whether or not it has jurisdiction to probe the matter based on the 2009 request, or whether a new request would have to be submitted, according to The Guardian. The Palestinian factions would have to agree on submitting a new request, a difficult task, as Hamas would also be opening itself up to a war crimes inquiry.
The Guardian reported that western pressure has prevented the ICC from taking the view that the 2009 request gives the court jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation into Israel’s actions.
Both current ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was prosecutor at the time of the 2009 Palestinian declaration, argue that a new Palestinian request would have to be made to allow the court to open an investigation. However, The Guardian quoted another former official of the court as saying, “They are trying to hide behind legal jargon to disguise what is a political decision, to rule out competence and not get involved.”
The French lawyer representing the Palestinians, Gilles Devers, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that “there is enormous pressure not to proceed with an investigation. This pressure has been exerted on Fatah and Hamas, but also on the office of the prosecutor.
“In both cases, it takes the form of threats to the financial subsidies, to Palestine and to the International Criminal Court,” he added.