Israel has voiced its concern after the Palestinian authorities submitted the official application to join the ICC, since Israeli troops may be put on trial there for war crimes, according to reports
Palestinian permanent observer at the U.N., Riyad Mansour, submitted the official application to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the U.N. secretary-general last week. Through joining the ICC, Palestine aims to bring human rights violations and war crimes committed by Israeli troops to the court since Israeli actions remain unpunished despite many reports by the U.N. or independent nongovernmental organizations that have shown that Israel committed war crimes several times. The U.N. confirmed receipt of the documents and said the next steps were being reviewed.
It will take a minimum of 60 days for the request to come into effect. Speaking at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday, Mansour said pursuing the war crimes case was an option that allowed Palestine to "seek justice for all those killed by the Israeli occupier." The move came two days after the application for membership in the Hague-based ICC was signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"We are honored that we are to be the 123rd state party to join the ICC, which will become effective about 60 days from now," Mansour said. "It is a very significant step that we will be taking. It is a legal option, it is a peaceful option, it is a civilized option and it is an option that anyone who upholds the law should not be afraid of," he added.
When asked about the possibility of Palestinian leaders, particularly members of Hamas, being pursued for war crimes, Mansour said that the option was "political posturing." "We are not afraid of the judgment of the law, especially international law," he said.
Before Israel, the U.S. had voiced its concern over the application. A senior State Department official told Reuters on Friday that steps to join the ICC will have implications for U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. "It should come as no surprise that there will be implications for this step, but we continue to review," the unnamed official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday said that Israel will not let its soldiers be tried at the ICC. "We will not let Israel Defense Forces soldiers and officers be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting two days after the Palestinians filed the application to become a party to the court.
If the application is accepted an investigation on the 50-day Israeli attacks on Gaza last summer could possibly be launched. A report released by Amnesty International in November accused the Israeli military of committing war crimes in Gaza during attacks on the Gaza Strip this summer that left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead including many civilians.
The group investigated eight cases and said in the report: "In the eight cases documented by Amnesty International in this report, Israeli aircrafts dropped aerial bombs on or launched missiles at homes they knew or should have known had civilians inside. The attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 111 individuals, including at least 104 civilians, and injured many others. Some 34 apartments and neighboring houses, home to more than 150 people, were destroyed or badly damaged in these attacks."
Moreover, the report said: "According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities and intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects constitute war crimes. In addition, regarding the destruction of entire homes, including apartment buildings, the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention regulates Israel's actions as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip."
Further chastising Israel as Gaza's occupying force, the report indicated that "any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, to the State, to other public authorities or to social or cooperative organizations is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."
The report also cited international humanitarian law, which "also prohibits disproportionate attacks, [which are those that] may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Intentionally launching an indiscriminate attack resulting in death or injury to civilians or a disproportionate attack constitutes a war crime."
In another report released by the Geneva-based Euromid Observer for Human Rights in October said that Palestinian civilians were subjected to "inhumane and abusive treatment such as beating, humiliation and exposure to the hot sun while naked for long periods of time" by the Israeli army. The report, "Israeli Matrix of Control: Use of Palestinian civilians as human shields," said that the use of humans as shields is a repeated Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories citing similar cases reported in the West Bank based on testimonies collected by observers.
"The use of human shields is a form of cruel and inhumane treatment and constitutes a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court," the report said. The human rights organization urged the Fact Finding Committee of the Gaza Conflict established by the U.N. Human Rights Council to put "pressure on all parties found to be guilty of war crimes committed by the Israeli army."