ICC prosecutor rejects Bibi’s ‘anti-Semitism’ charge


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused her of “pure anti-Semitism”¬†for seeking to investigate possible war crimes committed in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. “This is a particularly regrettable accusation that is without merit,”¬†Fatou Bensouda told The Times of Israel in a Jan. 13 interview. “I, along with my office, execute our mandate under the Rome Statute with utmost independence, objectivity, fairness and professional integrity. We will continue to meet our responsibilities as required by the Rome Statute without fear or favor.”

Bensouda announced Dec. 20¬†that she had found a basis for investigating possible war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories, but she is first asking the court to confirm that it has jurisdiction there‚ÄĒwhich Israel insists it does not. The announcement at The Hague ¬†came five years after her office opened a preliminary investigation of actions by Israel that¬†Palestinian leaders contended were war crimes‚ÄĒmost notably during the 50-day bombardment of the¬†Gaza Strip in 2014. “There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,”¬†Bensouda’s office said in a court filing.

The filing also said the investigation would examine possible war crimes by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups in Gaza, over charges that they have been “intentionally directing attacks against civilians,”¬†using civilians as human shields, and engaging in torture and “willful killing.”

Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court, and the preliminary investigation was opened in January 2015 in response to¬†petitioning by Palestinian authorities. This came weeks after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority¬†signed the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the court, and formally accepted its jurisdiction. Abbas’ move was bitterly protested by Israel and the United States.

In a lengthy memo published 90 minutes before Bensouda’s announcement, the Israeli¬†attorney general’s office reiterated its contention that the ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.¬†The memo asserted that only a sovereign state “having criminal jurisdiction over its territory and nationals”¬†can delegate authority to the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian¬†signing of the Rome Statute “did not settle the highly controversial question of Palestinian statehood,”¬†the memo read. (NYT, Dec. 20)

The preliminary investigation was the initial stage to find “reasonable grounds”¬†that war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed in the occupied territories since June¬†13, 2014,¬†the starting date requested by the Palestinian Authority. The full investigation, if commenced, could lead to indictments and eventual prosecutions of senior Israeli and Palestinian officials and military¬†commanders. (+972, Jan. 13)

Netanyahu responded to Bensouda’s announcement¬†at a Likud Party event¬†marking the first night of Hanukkah. “Pure anti-Semitism, that’s what the ICC has done, and we will not bow our heads,”¬†Netanyahu said. Invoking the¬†Hanukkah story, he¬†added¬†that the court “has set forth decrees that are just as anti-Semitic as the decrees of the Seleucid Greeks.” (Times of Israel, Dec. 22)

UN rights experts have also decired Israel as an “apartheid regime,” citing protocols of the Rome Statute.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons via +972

  1. ICC prosecutor asserts jurisdiction over Palestinian territories

    Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on April 30 reiterated that Palestine is a state for the purposes of transferring criminal jurisdiction over its territory to The Hague.

    According to Bensouda, under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, the ICC has territorial jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This territory consists of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Thus, she has a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in those areas.

    In the 60-page document, Bensouda recalls that a determination of the scope of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine “seeks to delimit the territorial zone in which the Prosecutor may conduct her investigations into alleged crimes”¬†without necessarily determining the disputed borders between Israel and Palestine.

    This is a reiteration of Bensouda’s position in the¬†Prosecution Request¬†issued in January 2020. (Jurist)

  2. ICC declares jursidiction over crimes committed in Palestine

    The¬†International Criminal Court¬†(ICC)¬†ruled¬†Feb. 5 that it has jurisdiction over crimes committed in Palestine. According to Article 12 of the¬†Rome Statute, which governs the ICC, the court may exercise jurisdiction over a crime if “the State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred”¬†is a party to the Statute or otherwise accepts the jurisdiction of the court. Israel argued that Palestine cannot give jurisdiction to the ICC because Palestine is not a sovereign state with jurisdiction over its own territory and nationals. But the judges cited General Assembly¬†Resolution 67/19, which¬†granted¬†“non-member observer state” status to Palestine. The Resolution affirmed Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The Chamber further ruled that the right to self-determination is a ‚Äúinternationally recognized human right‚ÄĚ with which the Rome Statue must be consistent. Therefore, the Palestinian occupied territories are included in the ICC‚Äôs jurisdiction. (Jurist)

  3. Israel rejects authority of ICC

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories. The statement followed the recommendation by an inter-ministerial team, led by the National Security Council, not to cooperate with the inquiry, but to respond to an ICC notification letter by the April 9 deadline. Letters were sent on March 9 to all parties concerned, giving them one month to inform the court whether they would elect to cooperate with the ICC inquiry. (Jurist)