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UK urged to refer Israel to the ICC

March 23, 2023 at 1:13 pm

Exterior view of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [Ant Palmer/Getty Images]

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has called on the UK government to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed in Palestine, and to recognise the court’s jurisdiction over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter sent today to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and the Foreign Secretary James Cleverley, the ICJP called on Number 10 to urgently recognise that the ICC has jurisdiction in respect of the situation in Palestine, and for the UK as an ICC State Party to refer the situation and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Court, pursuant to Article 14 of the ICC Statute.

Article 14 stipulates that a State Party may refer to the Prosecutor a situation in which one or more crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court appear to have been committed and calls on ICC Prosecutor to investigate the situation for the purpose of determining whether one or more specific persons should be charged with the commission of such crimes.

The letter, seen by MEMO, follows the UK’s decision to lead the joint referral of the situation in Ukraine to the ICC, in tandem with a coordinated group of State Parties. The court has since pleaded for extra money to pursue Russia over its alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

READ: PA calls for ICC to arrest Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich 

Calling on Britain to “emulate” its response to the situation in Ukraine, the letter said that the UK “must recognise that the ICC has jurisdiction in respect of the situation in Palestine, and refer that situation, and Mr Netanyahu’s role as a perpetrator, to the Court, as an ICC State Party, pursuant to Article 14 of the ICC Statute.”

The letter coincides with a visit by Netanyahu, and his Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. They are set to meet with their UK government counterparts in London this week, when discussions are expected to continue on a range of bilateral issues including trade, technology and security, following the signing of the 2030 roadmap for UK-Israel bilateral relations.

Under the “strategic partnership” currently being negotiated between London and Tel Aviv, the UK government has agreed to oppose the use of “apartheid” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as part of the new deal. Major human rights groups, including B’tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have in recent years – following similar statements by Israeli and Palestinian activists – determined that the term applies to the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The letter refers to previous findings by ICC Prosecutor that there is a reasonable basis to believe that throughout the 2014 conflict in Gaza, Israeli forces committed a number of war crimes, including the targeting of medical personnel and equipment. The letter also refers to a number of submissions previously made to the ICC by the ICJP, in relation to the targeting of journalists and media infrastructure by Israeli forces, as well as the unlawful destruction of Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The letter mentioned that the previous ICC prosecutor concluded that there is reasonable basis to believe that, in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza, members of the Israeli army committed war crimes. Citing the ICC prosecutor and countless UN reports, the ICJP said that there is “overwhelming evidence” to show Israel has committed war crimes.

ICJP’s letter also objected to the UK’s opposition to the use of the word apartheid to describe Israel. “We are also concerned by the UK Government’s assertion in 2(b)(ii) of the 2030 Roadmap for UK-Israel bilateral relations published on 21 March 2023 that the UK and Israel ‘disagree with the use of the term ‘apartheid’ with regard to Israel,” the ICJP said. “There is clear evidence that Israel has participated in acts which fall within the definition of the crime of apartheid,” it added, citing prominent human rights organisations.

READ: UN discusses Palestinian ICC request about legitimacy of Israeli occupation