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Israeli writers and academics warn ICC not to trust Israel to investigate its war crimes

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda on 20 October 2020 [EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/Getty Images]
International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda on 20 October 2020 [EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/Getty Images]

A group of more than 180 Israeli intellectuals, writers and academics have called on the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor not to accept Israel's own findings into alleged war crimes. In a letter addressed to Fatou Bensouda, the signatories warned that the regime does not intend to carry out a serious investigation into the allegations.

Instead they suggested that the Hague-based ICC should instead seek the assistance of Israeli human rights organisations to gather evidence of war crimes said to have been committed by the Israel Defence Forces.

"We wish to assert at this early stage our deep suspicion, based on past experience, that the State of Israel, including its investigative and legal institutions, has no intention to seriously investigate complaints of war crimes," the signatories explained. "Our suspicion is backed by a very large number of documented cases ostensibly involving war crimes committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories in gross violation of international law."

Most of these cases, they pointed out, have not been investigated at all. "A few have been concluded with acquittal following a superficial and inadequate investigation."

Based in The Hague, the ICC was set up in 2002 to bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. On 3 March, Chief Prosecutor Bensouda announced that the court planned to open an official investigation into possible war crimes by Israel committed in the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip. The decision was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority, but both Israel and the US strongly condemned the move.

The signatories, including ten Israel Prize laureates, concluded: "Unfortunately, despite the image of Israel as a state that maintains a professional and worthy legal system, the reality paints a different picture – difficult, discriminatory and outrageous. The law imposed on the Occupied Territories and the manner in which it is implemented by the Israeli law enforcement and security authorities in effect allow for ongoing moral injustice and alleged war crimes."

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