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ICC Refuses to Investigate Israeli War Crimes in Gaza

World criminal court says it has no jurisdiction because Palestine is not a state

- Common Dreams staff

The International Criminal Court refused on a Tuesday to consider a war crimes tribunal against Israel for its military assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009 or for other possible criminal acts in occupied Palestine.  Israel welcomed the news, but human rights groups condemned the announcement, including the legal justifications used by the ICC in its decison.

Palestinians run for cover during the Israeli phosphorus strike over the UN Relief and Works Agency HQ in Gaza in January. The ICC rejected its obligation to investigate Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images) "This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC. It also breaches the Rome Statute which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges,” said Marek Marczyński, Head of Amnesty International’s International Justice campaign.

The attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009 killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians and devastated vital infrastructure. Palestinians last year petitioned for full UN membership, but that effort has been blocked so far with the most fierce resistance coming from the United States and Israel.

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Al-Jazeera: ICC says it cannot investigate alleged Israeli crimes in Gaza because Palestine is not a state

The International Criminal Court has halted a Palestinian Authority bid to clear the way for the permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008.

"The office [of the prosecutor] has assessed that it is for the relevant bodies at the UN or the Assembly of State Parties to make a legal determination whether Palestine qualifies as a state for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute [the court's founding treaty]," the prosecutor's office said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Authority in January 2009 accepted the Hague-based court's jurisdiction, asking prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to launch a war crimes investigation against Israel following the Gaza war.

It wanted Moreno-Ocampo to look into "acts committed on the territory of Palestine" going as far back as July 2002. Moreno-Ocampo's office then opened a preliminary probe to see if there were grounds to proceed with an investigation.

Tuesday's statement, however, said the court's reach was not based on a principle of universal jurisdiction and it could open investigations only if asked to do so by either the UN Security Council or by a recognised state.

Palestine does not have full UN membership, though it has asked for it.

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Amnesty International: A "Dangerous" Decision by ICC

"This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC. It also breaches the Rome Statute which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges,” said Marek Marczyński, Head of Amnesty International’s International Justice campaign.

"For the past three years, the prosecutor has been considering the question of whether the Palestinian Authority is a "state" that comes under the jurisdiction of the ICC and whether the ICC can investigate crimes committed during the 2008-9 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.”

“Now, despite Amnesty International’s calls and a very clear requirement in the ICC’s statute that the judges should decide on such matters, the Prosecutor has erroneously dodged the question, passing it to other political bodies.”

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