The International Criminal Court (ICC) will open a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, in a movement that could result in charges against both Israelis and Palestinians, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine… 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,” she added in a statement on Friday.
As the State of Palestine has requested the investigation, Bensouda noted that she is not required to seek ICC’s “Pre-Trial Chamber’s authorisation before proceeding to open an investigation.”
She also clarified that she requested from Pre-Trial Chamber a jurisdictional ruling on the scope of the geographical location the ICC can investigate, due to the complicated and disputed legal situation in the Palestinian Territories.
“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ’territory’ over which the court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Such determination is made strictly for the purposes of determining the Court’s ability to exercise its jurisdiction and the scope of such jurisdiction under the Statute,” Bensouda explained.
Once Bensouda’s statement was issued, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the “long awaited” movement to investigate “the crimes that were committed in the occupied Palestine.”
Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Al-Malki tweeted, “Yes this is a dark day for Israel.. the ICC’s chief prosecutor’s decision is a victory for justice and the Palestinian right.”
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the ICC’s decision as “a dark day for truth and justice.” He added in a statement that the ICC has no jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.
“The court has no jurisdiction in this case. The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state,” he said.
Supporting Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday that “the United States did not believe Palestinians qualified as a sovereign state, meaning that the recent ICC decision to open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes against them is unfounded.” He also pointed out that Israel is not a party to the ICC.