A formal criminal investigation into war crimes allegations in Palestine is a “momentous step forward in the quest for accountability,” a UN human rights expert said Tuesday of the ICC’s decision, reports Anadolu Agency.
“Accountability has, until now, been largely missing in action throughout the 52-year-old occupation,” Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Territories Michael Lynk said in a statement.
He said that over the years, the international community adopted hundreds of resolutions through the UN condemning various features of Israel’s entrenched occupation of the Palestinian territory but it rarely combined criticism with consequences for Israel.
“Now, the possibility of accountability is finally on the horizon.”
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced December 20 she was “satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine.”
She spent five years reviewing the initial evidence as part of a preliminary investigation into the 2014 war on Gaza, Israeli settlements, and more recently, the killing and wounding of Palestinian demonstrators near the Gaza frontier.
Bensouda said before a formal investigation by her office is initiated, she would ask for a ruling by the pre-trial chamber on the issue of territorial jurisdiction.
Specifically, she is seeking confirmation that the “territory” over which the Court may exercise its jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Two million Palestinians live in Gaza, whose economy has suffered years of Israeli enforced blockades as well as recent foreign aid cuts after clashes in the enclave.
Unemployment stands at 52%, according to the World Bank, and poverty is rampant in the territories that has been occupied since 1967.