A UN human rights expert on Tuesday said the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) ruling that it has jurisdiction over grave crimes committed in occupied Palestinian territory, including potential war crimes, is a major move towards ending impunity and ensuring justice.
“This is a significant step forward in the quest for justice and accountability involving the unaccountable 53-year-old occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situationof human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
“The leading political organs of the United Nations have repeatedly failed to enforce their own significant body of resolutions on the Israeli occupation,” the independent expert said. “This ruling opens the door for credible allegations of Rome Statute crimes to finally be investigated and potentially reach the trial stage at the ICC. This offers profound hope to those who believe that consequences, not condonation, must be the answer to the commission of grave crimes.”
The allegations of grave crimes that could be investigated by the Prosecutor of the ICC include Israel’s actions during the 2014 war against Gaza, the killing and wounding of thousands of largely unarmed demonstrators during the Great March of Return in 2018-9, and Israel’s settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As well, the Prosecutor can also look into allegations of grave crimes involving Palestinian armed groups.
“In adopting the Rome Statute and creating the International Criminal Court, the international community pledged its determination to end impunity for the perpetrators of grave crimes,” the Special Rapporteur stated.
“Yet, in the context of Israel’s protracted occupation, the international community has permitted a culture of exceptionalism to prevail. Had international legal obligations been purposively enforced years ago, the occupation and the conflict would have been justly resolved and there would have been no need for the ICC process.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that a number of authoritative UN reports in recent years have called for accountability and for Israel to meaningfully investigate credible allegations of grave crimes but none of these calls for justice and accountability have been implemented.He urged the international community to support the ICC process. “The preamble of the Rome Statute calls for ‘international cooperation’ to ensure the ‘lasting respect for and the enforcement of international justice,’’ Lynk said. “Ending impunity and pursuing justice can only bring us closer to peace in the Middle East.”