The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign minister has asked the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, May 22 to open an "immediate investigation" into alleged Israeli "crimes" committed against the Palestinian people.
This is for the first time that the Palestinian government has submitted a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling on prosecutors to open an immediate investigation into what it called Israeli crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki arrived on Tuesday at the international court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, to meet with Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. "The State of Palestine took an important and historic step towards justice for the Palestinian people who continue to suffer from ongoing, widespread and systematic crimes," said Malki in a press conference after the meeting.
Malki said the referral addressed a myriad of issues, including "settlement expansion, land grabs, illegal exploitation of natural resources, as well as the brutal and calculated targeting of unarmed protesters, particularly in the Gaza Strip".
The referral sought an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since the state of Palestine accepted the ICC's jurisdiction in 2014, he said.
The move comes after widespread outrage in the occupied Palestinian territories and internationally over the Israeli army's killing on May 14 of 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip, in what was described by rights groups as well as various governments as a massacre.
The ICC has been conducting a preliminary probe since 2015 into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, including Israel's settlement policy and crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict. Tuesday's referral could speed up a decision on whether to open a full-blown investigation that could ultimately lead to the indictment of high-ranking Israelis.
But while a referral does not automatically trigger an investigation, it applies more pressure on the prosecutor to open one. The Aljazeera reported in regards to the referral, Alex Whiting, a former ICC official, said that a state referral makes it "much harder" for the Office of the Prosecutor "to stay in the preliminary examination phase for years."
Commenting on the Palestinian referral to the ICC on Tuesday, the Israeli foreign ministry said the request is "legally invalid". "The ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, since Israel is not a member of the Court and because the Palestinian Authority is not a state."
Israel expects the ICC and its Prosecutor not to yield to Palestinian pressure, and stand firm against continued Palestinian efforts to politicize the Court and to derail it from its mandate.
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) May 22, 2018
Israel has said it was defending its border and accused Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group of using the unrest to carry out attempted attacks and of using civilians as human shields.
However, Palestine's Foreign Minister Malki said it was time for the Palestinians to seek redress in court. “We will not allow injustice to be Palestine’s destiny,” he said.