The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Friday her intention to launch an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Israeli-occupied Palestine.
"I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine," Bensouda said in a statement. "In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip," said Bensouda, adding that "there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice."
Bensouda called on the court's pre-Trial chamber to swiftly confirm that court's jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.
#ICC Prosecutor #Bensouda: “I therefore requested from ICC Judges a jurisdictional ruling on the scope of the territorial jurisdiction of ICC under article 12(2)(a) of #RomeStatute” https://t.co/wbztgnIAZS— Int'l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) December 20, 2019
#ICC Prosecutor #Bensouda: “It is necessary for this specific matter before the Court’s Judges to be resolved without undue delay so that my Office can take the appropriate next steps accordingly in independent & objective exercise of our mandate”— Int'l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) December 20, 2019
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry welcomed the announcement, which it called "a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination."
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Authorities in Israel were up in arms.
"We utterly reject the prosecutor's decision," Israel's Foreign Ministry said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also blasted the decision on social media, deeming it "absurd." Netanyahu's office added that the prime minister fired off letters to other world leaders in response.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), however, said the ICC hasn't moved swiftly enough to address crimes committed by Israel.
"The ICC prosecutor's finding that there is a basis for her office to launch a formal investigation into the situation in Palestine affirms the urgent need for accountability for serious crimes committed there," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth.
"But Bensouda's decision to seek guidance form the court's judges nearly five years into her preliminary inquiry," Roth continued, "means that perpetrators of serious crimes will not face justice at the ICC anytime soon."
"The prosecor should have proceeded directly with a formal probe," he said, "as was within her power to do."