ICC to decide on its authority to judge Israel on war crimes

The World Court will decide whether it has jurisdiction this week. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

On Thursday, the day after Israel’s Independence Day, the International Criminal Court at the Hague will decide whether it has jurisdiction over the areas of Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.

The decision as to whether the court has jurisdiction is a necessary preparatory step into weighing in on whether Israel committed war crimes in the 2014 war in Gaza known as Operation Protective Edge. In December, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said there was “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” into the allegations.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is a member of the ICC, requested the investigation five years ago. Israel is not a member of the ICC.

If the world court decides that the PA is a state, then it has jurisdiction to investigate Israeli activities during the 2014 operation, which will include not only the area of the Gaza Strip but also Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

The Court determined that interested parties could file amicus briefs by March 16. At least 50 were filed and NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel non-profit, reviewed them.

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NGO Monitor found the submissions were sloppy – “highly flawed” or with “invented legal arguments.” The arguments ignored the rules of the court to limit “discussion to that of jurisdiction,” engaged in historical revisionism, such as ignoring Palestinian terrorism, and promoted “biased source material.”

NGO Monitor also looked at the players who filed with the court. Three of the four NGOs had ties to the terror group PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). In their brief, they make ahistorical assertions, such as, “We maintain that Palestine existed as a State prior to the British Mandate.”

A brief was also filed by FIDH. Based in France, it’s an international confederation of more than 180 NGOs. It has “a long history of anti-Israel campaigning,” NGO Monitor says, and has been “a vocal proponent of exploiting the ICC and universal jurisdiction to target Israelis, themes that appear in the brief as well.”

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), which filed a brief, was identified by the CIA in 1978 as “one of the most useful communist front organizations at the service of the Soviet Communist Party.” NGO Monitor quotes Attorney Alan Dershowitz, who called it “anti-democratic to its core and supportive of terrorism and repression.”

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NGO Monitor notes that “advocacy organizations have sought to turn the ICC into a court of universal jurisdiction” when “the ICC was created for the explicit and narrow purpose of prosecuting individuals accused of specified crimes, and not for political legal warfare.”

Israel blasted the decision of the court in December to open an investigation into war crimes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a dark day for truth and justice.”

Bensouda’s decision “has turned the International Criminal Court into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel. The prosecutor has completely ignored the legal arguments we presented to her,” the prime minister said.

Several countries have filed on behalf of Israel, arguing the court has no jurisdiction. They include Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Brazil.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also blasted the court. “Today, the ICC prosecutor raised serious questions about the ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate Israel. Israel is not a state party to the ICC. We firmly oppose this unjustified inquiry that unfairly targets Israel. The path to lasting peace is through direct negotiations,” he tweeted in December shortly after the decision.