|A Dark Day for International Justice: ICC Office of the Prosecutor decides not to open investigations into situation of Palestine|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 11:35|
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) wishes to express its extreme disappointment following the decision by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to open an investigation in the situation Palestine. This situation has been under examination by the Court for more than 3 years; in response to the suspected commission of grave war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in the context of Israel’s 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009 offensive on the Gaza Strip (Operation ‘Cast Lead’), Palestine lodged a declaration recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in accordance with Article 12(3) of the Court’s Statute on 22 January 2009.
Following all parties’ proven failure to fulfil their obligations to effectively investigate the crimes committed in the context of Operation Cast Lead, the ICC represented the most appropriate forum to pursue accountability. This was in fact one of the key recommendations of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which triggered a complex (and as yet uncompleted) follow-up process at the UN level.
The conclusions of the UN Fact-Finding Mission regarding the suspected commission of international crimes during Operation Cast Lead were substantiated by a number of reports from independent human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FIDH, as well as the Report of the Fact-Finding Commission mandated by the Arab League. The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC received hundreds of complaints and requests by victims of the attacks on the Gaza Strip seeking the urgent opening of independent investigations at the international level. PCHR and its partners submitted numerous case files on victims’ behalf to the Office of the Prosecutor.
PCHR believes that the ICC Prosecutor has completely failed to address this issue in an appropriate manner.
The admissibility question before the Court – whether Palestine could be considered a State – was unquestionably a difficult one. However, a number of convincing arguments were presented, including that Palestine can be considered a State at a minimum for the purposes of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
PCHR believes that the purpose of the Office of the Prosecutor is to pursue accountability, and to act in the interests of universal justice. The ICC Prosecutor, rather than unilaterally deciding on the admissibility of such investigations, should have immediately referred the question to the Assembly of the States Parties. The two pages decision of the 3 April 2012 indeed acknowledges this point:
‘The Rome Statute provides no authority for the Office of the Prosecutor to adopt a method to define the term “State” under article 12(3) which would be at variance with that established for the purpose of article 12(1).’
The Prosecutor’s decision to act unilaterally – without referring the issue to the Pre-Trial Chamber, the most appropriate body – and the unacceptably long time taken to come out with such a non-conclusive, almost interlocutory decision, raises the suspicion that the Prosecutor was acting not in the interests of justice, but rather on the basis of political considerations. It is hard to escape the feeling that the victims and their representatives were deliberately deceived.
PCHR calls upon Palestine to immediately deposit its instrument of accession to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
PCHR also calls for other States parties to refer the situation Palestine to the ICC.
Most importantly PCHR calls for all UN bodies, and in particular the UN General Assembly to act consistently in the interests of justice and to conclude the so-called ‘Goldstone process’, by bringing the issue to the Security Council so that it may refer the situation in Israel and Palestine to the ICC.
The victims of this conflict deserve no less.
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