The Office of the Prosecutor (Office) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has affirmed the occupied status of the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, in a blow to Israel's claims to the contrary.
A new report on preliminary examination activities, published on 14 November, includes an update on the Office's activities in relation to Palestine.
As part of providing context, the Office notes Israel's position regarding the Gaza Strip since its unilateral redeployment of settlers and armed forces in 2005 (so-called 'disengagement'), namely that "it is no longer an occupying power in Gaza."
The Office continues: "By contrast, it may be argued that Israel nonetheless remains an occupying power as a result of the scope and degree of control that Israel has retained over the territory of Gaza – a position that the Office has previously taken in the context of the preliminary examination of the situation referred by the Government of the Union of Comoros."
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The Office of the ICC also refers to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and in the case of the latter, notes how "Israel adopted laws and orders effectively extending Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration over East Jerusalem." In 1980, the Knesset "passed a 'Basic Law' by which it established the city of Jerusalem 'complete and united' as the capital of Israel."
However, the Office notes, "the UN Security Council and International Court of Justice, among others, have regarded the annexation of East Jerusalem as a violation of the jus cogens norm prohibiting the acquisition of territory by military force."
The Office expressed its concern about how staff members of Palestinian human rights organisations "that have gathered information of relevance to the…preliminary examination…have been subjected to threats and other apparent acts of intimidation and interference."
It goes on: "The Office takes this situation very seriously and has consulted with the organisations and persons affected as well as liaised with the Dutch authorities, as the Host State to the Court, in order to ensure that appropriate steps and measures are taken to address the situation."
The situation in Palestine has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the ICC since 16 January 2015, since when the Office has "received more than 86 communications pursuant to article 15 in relation to crimes alleged to have been committed since 13 June 2014 in this situation."
The Office states that it "is continuing to engage in a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available, in order to establish whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation."