ICC Prosecutor Opens Formal Investigation into War Crimes in Palestine

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. (Photo: ICC Website)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, today announced that her office will open a formal investigation into war crimes in Palestine.

“Today, I confirm the initiation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine. The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office,” read a statement by Bensouda’s Office that was made available to international media and received by The Palestine Chronicle.

“How the Office will set priorities concerning the investigation will be determined in due time, in light of the operational challenges we confront from the pandemic, the limited resources we have available to us, and our current heavy workload. Such challenges, however, as daunting and complex as they are, cannot divert us from ultimately discharging the responsibilities that the Rome Statute places upon the Office.”

“On the basis of our deliberations, we knew that one issue we would need to have resolved related to the territorial scope of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine. For this reason, we took, as a responsible prosecuting Office, the preliminary step of seeking a ruling on the question, because it was important for us to obtain clarity on it at the outset, so as to chart the course of any future investigation on a sound and judicially tested foundation.”

On December 20, 2019, Bensouda made a request to the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I for a ruling to clarify the territorial scope of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, and on February 5, 2021, the Chamber decided 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.

In its majority ruling, the Chamber stressed that it was not determining whether Palestine fulfilled the requirements of statehood under public international law, or adjudicating a border dispute, or prejudging the question of any future borders; it was solely determining the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction for the purposes of the Rome Statute, as requested.

Having assessed submissions from states, international organizations and other stakeholders, the Chamber was otherwise unanimous in its view that Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute.

(Palestine Chronicle, WAFA, Social Media)

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