The International Criminal Court judges that its “territorial jurisdiction” extends to the Palestinian territories and triggers controversy

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The International Criminal Court declared itself competent on Friday over the events in the occupied Palestinian territories, which could pave the way for an investigation for war crimes. The ICC explained in a statement that it “decided by a majority that the territorial jurisdiction of the Court for the situation in Palestine (member since 2015, editor’s note) extended to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 ”.

Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of this international tribunal created in 2002 and which has its seat in The Hague to judge the most terrible crimes committed on the planet, had asked her for a legal opinion on this point. And this after having announced in December 2019 wanting to open a full investigation into possible “war crimes” – without however naming their perpetrators – in the territories occupied by Israel. The Hebrew state has remained outside the ICC.

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The Court added that with its decision, it “did not rule on a border dispute under international law or prejudge the question of any future borders” but had the “sole objective of defining its territorial jurisdiction”. Ms. Bensouda, who is due to step down next June, wants the ICC to take over from a five-year preliminary investigation following the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip.

Indignation

“Today, the court has once again proved that it is a political body and not a judicial institution,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lamented in a statement on Friday, considering that, by its decision, the ICC was harming the “Right of democracies to defend themselves against terrorism”. For the Hebrew state, this decision is wrong because Palestine “is not a state”, “has no determined borders” and therefore the court in The Hague cannot confer any on it, he stressed. . In addition, this decision by the ICC “does not help” peace in the Middle East at a time when the region is experiencing a “wind of change” with the ongoing normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries, he said. added this Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Washington, for its part, said it was “concerned”. Israel had already vigorously condemned the court when its prosecutor called for a full investigation. The United States, which is also not a party to the ICC statute, had a similar reaction. Donald Trump’s government even took sanctions against Ms. Bensouda in September, who in turn asked Joe Biden to lift them.

“Victory”

For his part, the Palestinian Minister for Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, said on Twitter that the court’s decision on Friday was “a victory for law, justice, freedom and moral values ​​in the world” . This decision is a “message to the perpetrators” who “will not go unpunished”, added Mr. Shtayyeh, calling on the ICC to “speed up” the legal proceedings regarding the last war in Gaza, the Palestinian prisoners and the development of the Israeli settlements.

The human rights NGO Human Rights Watch believes that it is “high time that the Israeli and Palestinian perpetrators of the most serious human rights violations” are brought to justice.

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