International Criminal Court to probe war crimes in Palestinian Territories

Reuters On Mar 3, 2021

THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court prosecutor said on Wednesday her office will formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, a move welcomed by the Palestinian Authority and denounced by Israel.

The decision comes after the court ruled on Feb. 5 that it has jurisdiction in the case, prompting swift rejection from Washington and Jerusalem.

“The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years,” outgoing Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

“In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides,” Bensouda said.

“My office will take the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized.”

Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019 that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation.

It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ICC is a court of last resort established to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide when a country is unable or unwilling to do so.

The prosecutor’s office was targeted by sanctions under former US President Donald Trump in response to its investigation in Afghanistan, which is examining the role of US forces.

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