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B’Tselem rejects Israel Attorney General’s objection to ICC jurisdiction

March 12, 2020 at 11:18 am

Avichai Mandelblit, Israel’s Attorney General in Jerusalem on 21 November 2019 [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

Leading Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has described the country’s Attorney General’s objection to International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction in Palestine as “divorced from reality”.

In a new position paper published yesterday, B’Tselem said that the Attorney General’s claims that the ICC lacks jurisdiction “rely on intentional misquotation, disregard for international law and an absurd misrepresentation of reality”.

In his memorandum, Attorney General Dr. Avichai Mandelblit, whose legal opinion represents the Israeli government, argued that “only sovereign states can be members of the Rome Statute and delegate their jurisdiction to the ICC”, and that Palestine is not such a state.

According to B’Tselem, in making his argument, Mandelblit “relied on partial quotes taken out of context, flouted the provisions of international law regarding occupation, overlooked the international community’s positions on Israel’s policy in the Occupied Territories for more than fifty years, and absurdly misrepresented reality.”

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The human rights NGO stated that “ultimately, Israel – by means of its attorney general – is seeking to continue its policies undisturbed.”

“For many years, Israel has enjoyed total immunity regarding its actions in the Occupied Territories,” B’Tselem added. “Domestically, not a single person has paid a significant price for these actions thanks to the almost blanket criminal and civil immunity Israel accords itself.”

“Internationally,” meanwhile, “very little (if anything) has been done to compel Israel to change its policies. Instead, it enjoys generous financial benefits and international legitimacy. Israel is now railing against the prospect of actually being held accountable for some of its crimes.”

Commenting on the release of the new briefing, B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad described “Israel’s attempt to clutch at formalistic straws to evade the ICC’s jurisdiction” as “shameful”.

Since Palestine joined the Rome Statute, it has the right to demand an investigation into the situation there. Palestine is not a ‘sovereign state’ precisely because it is under Israeli occupation, whose crimes the ICC has the jurisdiction – and responsibility – to investigate.

“We hope the Court will make the right decision, sustain the Prosecutor’s position, and decide: indeed it has jurisdiction – and there will be an investigation,” El-Ad added.

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