The decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel’s alleged human rights violations and war crimes in the occupied West Bank will most likely be delayed up to a month, the Jerusalem Post has reported.
The delay could last until at least 30 March, following the closure of the court building in The Hague on Tuesday due to the coronavirus pandemic. As such, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has filed for an extension on the matter until 30 April, citing the global health crisis.
The Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israeli war crimes committed in the occupied territories relating to illegal settlements, land expropriation and the killing of civilians during military offensives against civilians in the Gaza Strip.
However, on 16 March and in the days leading up to it, some countries, NGOs and jurists filed amicus briefs to the ICC asking permission to present legal arguments against the tribunal’s jurisdiction to prosecute war crime suits against Israel. Some of the countries lining up with Israel against the tribunal’s jurisdiction are Canada, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Brazil. They argue that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case because Palestine does not meet the criteria for statehood.
The issue is now whether the ICC Pre-trial Chamber will view “Palestine” as a state, and what territory it would say it has jurisdiction over in order to authorise a full criminal probe of Israelis for war crimes.
The Palestinian Authority published a statement on Monday calling on the ICC to reject any objections to the idea of Palestinian statehood. Such a decision, insists the PA, would undermine the objectives and purpose of the ICC on formalistic grounds by preventing it from prosecuting war crimes. In any case, the ICC does not investigate states, but officials who are accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.