THE HAGUE, Wednesday, March 03, 2021 (WAFA) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, today announced initiation of an investigation of the Situation in Palestine covering Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.
"Today, I confirm the initiation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine. The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office," said a statement by Bensouda’s Office.
"How the Office will set priorities concerning the investigation will be determined in due time, in light of the operational challenges we confront from the pandemic, the limited resources we have available to us, and our current heavy workload. Such challenges, however, as daunting and complex as they are, cannot divert us from ultimately discharging the responsibilities that the Rome Statute places upon the Office." The statement went on to say: "Under the Rome Statute, where a State Party has referred a situation to the Office of the Prosecutor and it is determined that a reasonable basis exists to commence an investigation, the Office is obliged to act. As a first step, the Office is required to notify all States Parties and those States which would normally exercise jurisdiction over the crimes concerned about its investigation. This permits any such State to request the Office to defer to the State's relevant investigation of its own nationals or others within its jurisdiction in relation to Rome Statute crimes referred to in the notification (subject to possible Pre-Trial Chamber review).
"Any investigation undertaken by the Office will be conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.
The Rome Statute obliges the Office, in order to establish the truth, to extend its investigation to cover all facts and evidence relevant to an assessment of whether there is individual criminal responsibility under the Statute and, in doing so, to investigate incriminating and exonerating circumstances equally.
"The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my Office that lasted close to five years. During that period, and in accordance with our normal practice, the Office engaged with a wide array of stakeholders, including in regular and productive meetings with representatives of the Governments of Palestine and Israel, respectively.
"On the basis of our deliberations, we knew that one issue we would need to have resolved related to the territorial scope of the Court's jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine. For this reason, we took, as a responsible prosecuting Office, the preliminary step of seeking a ruling on the question, because it was important for us to obtain clarity on it at the outset, so as to chart the course of any future investigation on a sound and judicially tested foundation."
On 20 December 2019, Bensouda made a request to the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I for a ruling to clarify the territorial scope of the Court's jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, and on 5 February 2021, the Chamber decided, by a majority, that the Court may exercise its criminal jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, and that the territorial scope of this jurisdiction extends to Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In its majority ruling, the Chamber stressed that it was not determining whether Palestine fulfilled the requirements of statehood under public international law, or adjudicating a border dispute, or prejudging the question of any future borders; it was solely determining the scope of the Court's territorial jurisdiction for the purposes of the Rome Statute, as requested.
Having assessed submissions from states, international organizations and other stakeholders, the Chamber was otherwise unanimous in its view that Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute. The majority also ruled that Palestine's referral of the Situation obliged the Office to open an investigation, the Office having determined that there existed a reasonable basis to do so in accordance with the Rome Statute criteria.
"Investigations take time and they must be grounded objectively in facts and law. In discharging its responsibilities, my Office will take the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized. We have no agenda other than to meet our statutory duties under the Rome Statute with professional integrity," said the statement.