On the 9th anniversary of the referral of crimes committed in Palestine to the International Criminal Court, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK) sent a letter signed by one hundred and thirty-five prominent figures and several human rights groups to Karim Khan, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) urging him to discharge his duty and address the ongoing breaches of international humanitarian law committed by the state of Israel against Palestinians living under its occupation.
The signatories of the letter include major figures in the world of politics, law and academia. Notable among them were: Noam Chomsky, Moncef Marzouki, Rashid Khalid, Ilan Pappe, Sarah Leah-Whitson and Avi Shlaim. They have raised concerns over the ongoing delay in pursuing an investigation into Israeli war crimes since Khan took over from his predecessor Fatou Bensouda. Under the former Chief Prosecutor, on 3 March 2021 the ICC initiated a formal investigation into war crimes committed in Palestine.
“Many of us had hoped that the ICC investigation, started under your predecessor, would continue under your leadership. However, despite mounting evidence of crimes committed by the Israeli regime, your office has apparently taken no further action,” said the signatories. “Since you assumed the position as the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, no one has heard anything from you on the Palestinian case, while your office announced speedy investigations into the alleged war crimes committed by Russia during its ongoing war against Ukraine, and issued an arrest warrant for President of Russia Vladimir Putin.”
Pointing out that it’s nearly a decade since Palestinians called on the ICC to open an investigation, the signatories insisted that there is no valid reason for the delay. The government of Palestine had first called for an ICC probe into allegations of crimes “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014, and became party to the Rome statute on 1 April 2015,” the letter pointed out.
Expressing their frustration further, the signatories noted that Bensouda’s announcement to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine followed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision on 5 February, 2021, providing that the ICC’s jurisdiction does indeed extend to Gaza and West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In a list of alleged Israeli war crimes carried out since Khan’s appointment, the letter mentioned “the systematic killing of civilians, ongoing building of settlements, collective punishment, open-ended occupation, laws targeting only Palestinians, the state-backed seizure of Palestinian land by settlers and the regular targeting of civilian infrastructure by bulldozers in the West Bank.”
The incitement to violence and genocide of Palestinians by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was also mentioned. The far-right Israeli minister called for the Palestinian village of Hawara to be “wiped out” by the Israeli government. His comments followed what one officer in the Israel Defence Forces called a “pogrom” in the village, where settlers killed one Palestinian, injured dozens more and torched multiple homes.
The signatories appealed for an end to Israeli “impunity” and called on Khan to take the “courageous” next step in the ICC probe. Last year almost two hundred Palestinian and international organisations representing civil society called on Khan to end the ICC’s procrastination; he announced that he will visit Palestine this year, but no further details about such a trip have been released.