Dispute Over ICC Intervention

  • Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, to open a preliminary examination of alleged war crimes committed during Israel’s military offensive on Gaza in June 2014
  • This has once again resulted in stirring up Israel-Palestine relations, and polarising the global politics around it.
  • This decision of the ICC follows Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute earlier this month and its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC over crimes committed “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014”.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as Hamas have welcomed this move, while Israel, which has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute, has strongly denounced it.
  • Until Palestine joined the ICC, Israel was principally in favour of the Court, but is now clearly infuriated by it.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the ICC’s move outright and is lobbying with states such as Canada, Australia and Germany to withhold their funding to it.
  • Some of the points of criticism against the ICC are in fact valid.
  • These are that the juridical nature of the ICC tends to hinder the peace process rather than build it and that with an arguably grim record the Court has been ineffective and slow in investigating crimes.
  • Israel claims to be fighting the war against Hamas that it considers a terrorist organisation.
  • Hence  the move of the ICC, it argues, amounts to an absurdity.
  • Such reasons, although partly true, still do not trump the need for an international criminal justice system to adjudicate war crimes.
  • First, the role of the ICC must be clearly understood.
  • The ICC is not meant to be a political body mediating a peace process, it is envisaged as a judicial body meant to end impunity and hold accountable those who have committed the gravest of crimes.
  • Even if the ICC may harm a peace process, which in the case of Israel-Palestine is anyway in deadlock, the politics of peace cannot prevail over justice, accountability for heinous crimes, and the upholding of dignity, women’s rights and other human rights.
  • Second, even if the ICC is a slow and ineffective mechanism, holding those responsible for human rights violations in war crimes is necessary.
  • Third, the investigation is against any person who may have committed war crimes during the conflict.
  • So, both Hamas and Israel would be under the ICC’s investigation.