Accessibility links

Palestinians Demand ICC Investigate Possible Gaza War Crimes


The International Criminal Court in The Hague is examining a demand by the Palestinian Authority to investigate possible war crimes during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority first demanded last month that the International Criminal Court examine its argument for potential war crimes charges against Israel in connection with the war in Gaza. According to reports, Palestinian officials are due back in The Hague shortly to press their claim. And the court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, appears to be examining the matter.

But there are many obstacles to taking on such a case. For one, neither Israel nor the Palestinian territories are members of the court - although in January, the Palestinian Authority signed a motion recognizing the court's authority.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the status of the Palestinian territories. Anthony Dworkin is an expert on international justice at the Council on Foreign Relations in London.

"The obvious question this throws up, which is of course an enormously controversial question, is whether the Palestinian authority qualifies as a state for the purposes of being able to be recognized by the court ... so that is the decision the court will have to make," he said.

There are other problems. The Palestinian Authority, which solicited the criminal court, is not in control of Gaza, its rival Hamas is. Were the court to take on the case, Dworkin said it would examine allegations of war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas.

There may be ways in which the court can take up the Palestinian Authority's case short of implicitly recognizing statehood, but Dworkin doubts it will ultimately go down that road.

"And I think for a young institution like the international criminal court to take such an enormously difficult step ... it seems to me highly unlikely they would do that. Even leaving aside the question ... of whether the Palestinian authority meets the criteria for statehood," he said.

The Hague court was set up to examine war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It is allowed to prosecute any citizen from the 108 nations belonging to it. Its first trial began last month against a former Congolese warlord.

The court has denied reports it has issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, although it is considering the matter.

XS
SM
MD
LG