Saturday, April 17, 2021

International Criminal Court reaches out to Palestinian victims of war crimes

By Maria Correia - July 25, 2018
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [war crimes] [court] [international criminal court]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently ordered its registry to establish a system of outreach for Palestinians that have suffered from Israeli war crimes.

The order is advocating “to establish, as soon as practicable, a system of public information and outreach activities for the benefit of the victims and affected communities in the situation in Palestine.”
The decision by the court came around its founding treaty’s 20th anniversary, known as the Rome Statute.
The Rome Statute focused on the victims of crimes and gave them space to participate in any legal proceedings until reparations.
This was to ensure world leaders and participants in war crimes and genocide were to be held accountable for their actions. However the ICC has had shortcomings with its engagement with victims in a continuous and helpful way in the past.
Additionally, the ICC has lacked in ensuring early participation by victims in the proceedings, failing to tackle issues and concerns from the beginning to till the end. It has in the past received criticism for its lacking field presence, and involving victims later in the legal proceedings.
This is the first time the ICC has ordered outreach activities at such an early stage of the process and before the ICC Prosecutor makes a formal investigation decision.
The decision would raise awareness of the court and make it more accessible for Palestinians at all stages of victimhood.  It indicates that the international community is recognizing the crimes committed by the Israeli government.
Alan Baker, a former senior Israeli diplomat, said that the ICC was “openly turning itself into a Palestinian propaganda engine.”
The Israeli Government has argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over issues within Israel-Palestine, as Israel is not a member state of the ICC and Palestine is not officially a state.
A preliminary examination on the situation in Palestine was opened in January 2015 by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, after Palestine accepted ICC jurisdiction over its territory.
Earlier this year, the Palestinian Authority (PA) called the ICC to investigate the evidence of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. Additionally last year, several Palestinian groups filed a 700-page communiqué to the ICC about Israeli war crimes.
Ryad Al-Maliki, the PA’s Foreign Minister, urged the Office of the Prosecutor “to open, without delay, an investigation into all crimes that she presently concludes have been commissioned or are ongoing,"
He added that the referral is “Palestine's test to the international mechanism of accountability and respect for international law.”
Whether the examination develops into an official investigation depends on the chief prosecutors decision. Nevertheless these first steps are already enabling Palestinian victims to be more heard and facilitate communication with the court.
Whether the decision is implemented appropriately depends on engagement levels on behalf of the court. Victims and affected communities should be provided necessary information about the ICCs role and reach out to them.

As Israel is growing increasingly hostile towards international organisations and human rights institutions, this move is not only a unique opportunity to have Palestinian voices heard in The Hague, but it is also essential.

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