GENEVA – The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, decided, on Wednesday, to officially authorize an investigation into war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian territories. The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) considers it as a great step towards justice and accountability.
“Today, I confirm the initiation by the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the situation in Palestine,” Bensouda said, adding it will specifically look at allegations since June 13, 2014.
The probe follows the 5 February 2021 decision, by majority, of ICC’s Pre Trial Chamber I, that the Court may exercise its criminal jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, and that the territorial scope of this jurisdiction extends to Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The chief prosecutor, Bensouda said in a statement, that “the inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour”, noting that investigations take time and that they must be grounded objectively in facts and law.
“ We have no agenda other than to meet our statutory duties under the Rome Statute with professional integrity”, she added.
The Geneva Council highlights that this initiative is an opportunity to investigate crimes against humanity in the Occupied territories, end impunity, uphold the international rule of law, and bring all perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.
Bensouda said in 2019 there was a “reasonable basis” to open war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. Following that assessment, she asked judges to rule on the extent of the court’s jurisdiction in the troubled region.
She also stressed that the “central concern” must be for the victims of crime, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides.
The Geneva Council welcomes the 3 March decision and urges the international community, ICC member countries to fully cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor and “stand ready to fiercely protect the court’s work from any political pressure,” as stated in the statement.