PCHR, Al-Haq and al-Mezan Center Hold Press Conference on ICC Developments
Date: 07 March 2021
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Al-Haq and Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights held on Sunday, 07 March 2021, a press conference where Raji Sourani, Shawan Jabarin and Issam Younis addressed the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigations into crimes allegedly committed in the occupied Palestinian territories since 13 June 2014. The conference was attended by national and international media outlets.
PCHR Director, lawyer Raji Sourani, started the conference and noted that all three human rights organizations created a coalition to document war crimes committed by Israeli occupation forces during its military operation on the Gaza Strip in 2014 to hold the State of Israel accountable for its crimes before the International Criminal Court.
Sourani added that the accession of the State of Palestine to the Rome Statute in 2014 opened the door for holding Israeli occupation leaders accountable for the war crimes committed in the occupied territories. The ICC Prosecutor commenced a preliminary examination immediately and it was concluded in December 2019 with plausible evidence that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Still, the Prosecutor opted to examine the Court’s territorial jurisdiction over the oPt and referred the file to the Pre-Trial Chamber.
Sourani also mentioned that during this period, several legal submissions were presented to the ICC by various parties, and the Court faced immense pressure from the United States that included an executive order by the U.S administration to sanction the ICC and prosecute its members; an unprecedented act where a State issued a law to prosecute the judges of the world’s most prominent international court.
He added that despite the political pressure exerted on the Court, it decided on 05 February 2021 that it has territorial jurisdiction over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. Still, the ICC faced extraordinary international pressure by other parties; nonetheless, the Prosecutor remained steadfast and issued a decision on 03 March 2021 to launch an official investigation into alleged crimes committed in the oPt, declaring that Israeli is suspected of committing war crimes.
Sourani emphasized that, as human rights organizations, “We will start legal engagement with the court with case files, evidence and documentation in order to redress some of the victims and offer them justice and regain dignity. We hope that the rule of law will prevail, as we have always strived for.”
For his part, Mr. Shawan Jabarin, Al-Haq Director in Ramallah, who attended the press conference via Zoom, added that the ICC decision was long-awaited, and it is the result of decades of work in documenting crimes and building reliable legal files. Mr. Jabarin said that human rights organizations’ work was the base for the point we are in and expressed his trust that the investigation will be done duly despite the Israeli intimidation attempts via its political influences. “We are certain that the victims will be redressed, and the day shall come when war criminals are behind bars. This may take time, maybe decades or centuries, but I am faithful that we will have justice one day.”
Jabarin also added that Israeli media campaigns and its attempts to intimidate Palestinians of the possibility of bringing Palestinians to the ICC should not deter us, as the one who commits war crimes, i.e. the occupation, is the one who should be concerned. “The justice train has set off and it will not stop. Those seeking justice will not be politically or otherwise manipulated, despite all the threats that aim to deter us from prosecuting war criminals. We believe that justice is soon.”
Mr. Issam Younis, Al-Mezan Director, stressed that the ICC investigation is a major achievement. Palestinians have longed for justice for so long, “Our cause is just, and the ICC is the last refuge for Palestinians. We cannot let the victims pay the price without accountability for those who committed the crimes against them.” “We are only seeking for ourselves what the whole world except for them and refuse what they do.” He added that the absence of accountability promises that worse times will come upon us and that Israel will continue with its settlement expansion, killing and destroying without punishment.
Younis also said that the work with the ICC is purely about justice and not political in any sense; those who refuse the Court’s decisions and wish to politicize them are those who opposed its foundation in the first place. The Court has been put under immense pressure by the United States, and its most prominent figures were targeted in an unprecedented manner from one side, and any party that engaged with it on the other, including Palestinian human rights organizations. Nevertheless, we will not be deterred from continuing our work to prosecute Israeli war criminals.
In conclusion, Younis said that the road to justice is long and hard and it cannot be achieved without hardship. As Palestinians, we have no choice but to continue our fight for defending our people and our victims so that criminals do not enjoy impunity anymore.