Palestine yesterday filed a war crime claim to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over Israel’s planned demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar.
Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, stated that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) delivered a submission to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda yesterday over Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), particularly the slated demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, Erekat explained that the claim “included a focus on the war crimes facing Khan Al-Ahmar, specifically the crimes of forcible displacement, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of civilian property,” Wafa reported.
Erekat also released a video on the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department’s Twitter page urging Bensouda to meet with the council of Khan Al-Ahmar and Walid Assaf, head of the Committee against the Wall and Settlements. Erekat added that “we hope an official investigation can be opened as soon as possible – we are determined to pursue this line and continue our fight in the [UN] Security Council and General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”
The move comes just days after US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions against the ICC and claimed that the organisation is “dead to [us]” in a bid to protect its own and Israel’s interests. Bolton explained that “the United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.” Responding to Bolton’s comments, the ICC said today that it will “continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with […] the overarching idea of the rule of law”.
This is not the first time Palestine has submitted a file to the ICC. In May, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki submitted a request to the ICC to investigate human rights violations inherent in Israel’s settlement policy. The submission referred to the forcible transfer of Palestinians, unlawful killings, illegal appropriation of land and property, demolition of Palestinian homes and other properties, repression of dissent through the unlawful killing of peaceful protesters and the policy of mass arbitrary detention and torture.
Also in May, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) filed a case to the ICC against Israeli officials and institutions directly involved in crimes against Palestinian media. The case aimed to highlight the killing of Palestinian journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein, as well as the injury of about 90 journalists by Israel in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of 2018 amidst the Great March of Return.
Khan Al-Ahmar, the Bedouin village to which the most recent Palestinian ICC submission refers, has been slated for demolition by Israel since it was alleged that the village was built on Israeli state land. Last week, Israel’s High Court gave the green light for the demolition, rejecting pleas to save the village and rescinding the temporary injunctions that had barred Israeli authorities from proceeding with the evictions. The question of where Khan Al-Ahmar’s 180 inhabitants will be forced to live remains to be answered after alternative sites suggested by Israel were rejected. Israel has previously suggested the Bedouin be relocated to a landfill site belonging to the nearby town of Abu Dis or a site southwest of Jericho, both of which would amount to forcible transfer which constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Statute of the ICC.