Israel formally refused to cooperate in the International Criminal Court probe that has been backed by several countries, including Qatar.
Israel has rejected the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into crimes against Palestinians and suggested the court has “no authority,” accusing it of violating Israel’s “sovereignty and authority.”
This comes after a formal probe was launched in early March, when the court announced it had opened an official investigation into the occupying state for its war crimes against Palestinians, following a pre-trial chamber decision in February.
A report by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) said the investigation was a consequence of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s 2019 conclusion that “there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine, pursuant to article 53(1) of the Statute,” and that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
This move was backed by many nations, including Qatar, which expressed support for the ICC decision to include the occupied Palestinian territories within the court’s jurisdiction.
Qatar welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court on inclusion of the occupied Palestinian territories with its jurisdiction. This came in a statement delivered by Qatar Permanent Representative in Geneva, at the Human Rights Council. #QNAhttps://t.co/xvEDlj3HKB pic.twitter.com/4Edw1cG3Tx
— Qatar News Agency (@QNAEnglish) February 24, 2021
A week following the announcement, the ICC sent a deferral letter to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), giving the two entities a month to inform the court if they intended to investigate crimes similar to those included in the ICC probe.
Prior to the deadline, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not cooperate with the inquiry, but it will send a response that “completely rejects” accusation of war crimes.
“It will be made clear that Israel is a country with rule of law that knows how to investigate itself,” said Netanyahu in a statement.
The response will “reiterate Israel’s unequivocal position that The Hague tribunal has no authority to open an investigation against it,” the statement said.
The PA has been a state party to the ICC since 2015, however Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the court. By definition, Israel is not a party to the court. This furthers Tel Aviv’s rejection of the court’s alleged interference.
However, while ICC prosecutors have named groups on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides as possible perpetrators, the PA has not rejected the investigation, welcoming it instead.
Executive Director and Associate Researcher at the ACRPS Mohammed alMasri describes this move as indicative of Israel’s position as an occupying power.
“By refusing to sign the [ICC] agreement, Israel admits its guilt in being involved in war crimes on one hand. On the other hand, it reflects its privileged position internationally where there is no such pressure to oblige Israel to sign,” said alMasri.
By not signing the agreement to investigate, Israel “relieves itself from the ICC’s rulings and cases, and from cooperating with its investigators,” added alMasri.
Past failed attempts of holding Israel accountable incentivised the state to continue to evade international accountability. In 2016, the United Nations Security Council recognised that Israel’s settlements are illegal and are a “flagrant violation of international law.”
In 2020, the Israeli government approved more than 12,150 settlements, the highest rate of illegal settlements thus far.
“The international community observes, it sometimes objects, but it does not act,” said UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk addressing the situation of human rights in Palestine.