Amnesty International: Israel Must Cease Intimidation of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders

Palestine IsraelAmnesty International issued a report this week calling on the Israeli authorities to end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs) and halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

According to the report, Israel is routinely violating Palestinians’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association in the OPT and are targeting HRDs, including by arbitrary arrest and detention, imprisonment, injury and torture. Israel authorities also are failing to protect HRDs from attacks by Israeli settlers and other extreme right wing activists, and in some cases they have been complicit in such attacks.

The report of Amnesty International lists a number of specific situations where human rights defenders have been intimidated, threatened by death, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.

In February and March 2016, a staff member and the director of Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights NGO, were subjected to a number of death threats. According to the report, these threats are directly connected to the organisation’s work with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Israeli ministers allegedly made calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, against Omar Barghouti, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist, at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016. Continue reading

UN votes to Allow Palestinian Flag to be Raised over UN

Palestine FlagThe United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday voting in favour of raising a flag of Palestine at its headquarters in New York City.

119 states voted in favour, while eight voted against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, United States) and there were 45 abstentions. European nations were divided on the move with France and Sweden voting in favour while others such as Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Cyprus abstained.

The new resolution comes amid growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood, with several states showing their support in the past year.

The move is of symbolic relevance in highlighting Palestinian aspirations for statehood. “It is a symbolic thing, but another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, ahead of the vote.

Both Israel and the United States have expressed strong opposition, with Israel’s UN ambassador Ron Prosor slamming the move as “a blatant attempt to hijack the UN”.

Palestine has non-member observer status at the UN, together with the Holy See. But late August, the Vatican had asked the Palestinian UN mission to remove all references to it from the draft resolution calling for the flags of Palestine and the Holy See to fly at the UN.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to that of a “non-member observer state” allowing them to take part in assembly debates.

Some 135 countries – many in Asia, Africa and Latin America – now recognise a Palestinian state.

Momentum to recognise a Palestinian state has built over the past years, with Palestine joining the International Criminal Court on 1 April 2015. The Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine, confirming that prosecutors would be looking at the Gaza conflict, as well as other issues that include Israel’s settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands.

Palestine Delivers Information to the ICC

On June 25, 2015, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Fatou Bensouda, met with the Palestinian foreign minister, Riad al-Malki, on the cases Palestine wishes to refer under the Rome Statute.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestine, which joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, delivered files to the ICC Prosecutor on two sets of facts that would allegedly amount to war crimes committed by Israel.  The first set would inform allegations of civilian killings and wrongful treatment of prisoners throughout the occupied territories, and more especially 2014 military operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge. The second set of information cover Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The question of whether illegal settlements can amount to war crimes has not yet come before the ICC, but Ms. Bensouda said “The settlements will definitely be part of this examination phase.” While the information delivered by Palestine is not considered criminal evidence, they will inform the Prosecutor’s examination of the situation that began in January 2015 and her decision to possibly open a criminal investigation.

How Israel Defence Forces Behaved in Gaza War

Gaza July 2014

Gaza July 2014

The army veterans’ organization has released a report called “Breaking the Silence” containing testimonies of 60 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers who fought during Operation Protective Edge last July and August. According to the group, the testimonies are indicative of a general principle that governed the entire military operation: minimum risk to the Israeli forces, even if it meant civilian casualties.

The rules of engagement basically established that “Anyone found in an IDF area, which the IDF had occupied, was not a civilian. That was the assumption,” one of the soldiers stated.

An armored infantry soldier reported that, at some point, it was understood that any home which Israeli forces entered and used would be destroyed afterward by large D9 bulldozers. “At no point until the end of the operation … did anyone tell us what the operational usefulness was in exposing [razing] the houses,” he said. “During a conversation, the unit commanders explained that it wasn’t an act of revenge. At a certain point we realized this was a trend. You leave a house and there’s no longer a house. The D9 comes and exposes [it].”

There were also several reports of shooting at civilians. A woman who was clearly unstable and no threat was reportedly ordered by the battalion commander to walk westward, toward an area where tanks were stationed. When the woman approached the tank force, she was machine-gunned to death.

The detailed testimonies in the report include other practices that some units adopted during Operation Protective Edge.

The full report is available here.

Palestine’s ICC Accession: Risks and Rewards

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej

Handout picture showing Abbas signing international agreements in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signs 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the ICC, in Ramallah on 31 December 2014

On 6 January, the UN secretary-general confirmed that Palestine will accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestine’s accession has, unsurprisingly, prompted certain countries – including Israel, the US and a number of European states – to warn of potentially grave consequences. It is certainly a risky venture for Palestine given political tensions in the region, but it may deter future war crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and marks another step towards statehood for Palestine.

Palestine’s accession will confer jurisdiction on the Court in relation to crimes committed within the territory claimed by Palestine. Although Israel has not ratified the Rome Statute, crimes allegedly committed by Israeli nationals in the territory claimed by Palestine will fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The ICC will also have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Palestinians outside the territory claimed by Palestine, including in Israel. Crimes falling within the ICC jurisdiction are limited to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the accession can only confer on the Court jurisdiction over crimes committed after the Rome Statute enters into force for Palestine on 1 April. And until the borders of Palestinian territory are clearly defined and the status of occupied territories resolved, the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction will remain contentious.

In order to bring past crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction, Palestine, on 1 January, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, retroactively accepting the Court’s jurisdiction. Although in principle such declarations can extend to crimes committed after 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute entered into force, Palestine decided to limit it to crimes committed since 13 June 2014. The declaration, if accepted by the ICC, would therefore bring into the ICC’s jurisdiction last summer’s conflict in Gaza but not earlier military operations. Continue reading

Palestine to join ICC on April 1

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has officially announced that Palestine will join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, 2015. The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute last Friday, January 2.

In addition, the Palestinian government lodged a declaration to the ICC Registrar, Herman von Hebel, under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute stating Palestine’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC since 13 June 2014. The jurisdiction ratione temporis of the ICC over crimes committed in Palestine could therefore cover both Operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge.

To date, 122 countries have ratified the Rome Statute, with the notable exceptions of the United States and Israel.

Palestine Signs the Statute of the International Criminal Court

Mahmoud AbbasLast Wednesday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He signed the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, at a Ramallah meeting.

However, the International Criminal Court will only acquire jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide on Palestinian territory when Palestine will have ratified the Rome Statute.

The signature follows the rejection of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by late 2017.

Eight members of the Security Council voted for that resolution, while it needed the support of at least nine members in order to pass.

“We want to complain. There’s aggression against us, against our land ” […] “The Security Council disappointed us”, Mr Abbas said.

The Palestinian Authority sought to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC back in May 2009 by way of an Article 12(3) declaration. In April 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor determined that since Palestine was an “observer entity,” it could not ratify the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the UN upgraded Palestine’s membership status to that of a non-observer member state. Writing in an op-ed for The Guardian in August 2014, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that the effect of this upgraded status was such that Palestine could now join the Rome Statute.

Decision on Flotilla Raid is Latest Turn in ICC’s Consideration of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej*

The decision to not investigate alleged war crimes during the raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010 comes as no surprise, but it highlights the uncertain legal situation surrounding the Rome Statute’s applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Mavi Marmara Passengers

Passengers look down from the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara as the Israeli navy intercepts boats bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 – ©Getty Images

On 5 November, the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers during their raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010. Despite acknowledging a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, the prosecutor concluded that the potential case was not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC. The decision comes as no surprise.

Due to its limited resources, the ICC was never intended to deal with all crimes falling within its jurisdiction. The assessment as to which case meets the threshold of sufficient gravity is based on the scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes and their impact. Given that the court lacks jurisdiction to investigate any other alleged crimes committed in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict or in the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prosecutor concluded that the requisite threshold was not met because the potential case(s) would be limited to an event encompassing a small number of victims of the alleged war crimes. Continue reading

ICC: No Investigation into Gaza Flotilla Raid Case

marmara_donuyor_boyutlar.fh11

The Mavi Marmara was the lead ship in a eight-vessel humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has decided to close her preliminary inquiry into the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists, according to a statement today.

The case was referred to her office on 14 May 2013 by the Union of the Comoros, which is an ICC State Party. One of the ships in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was registered in the Comoros.

On the same day, the Prosecutor announced that her Office had opened a preliminary examination of the referred situation.

“Following a thorough legal and factual analysis of the information available, I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (…) were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” on 31 May 2010,” said the Prosecutor.

However, “after carefully assessing all relevant considerations”, she concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of “sufficient gravity” to justify further action by the ICC. Continue reading

Amnesty International: ICC is the Key to Break Injustice in Gaza

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Following Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Amnesty International is urging the UN Security Council, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to do everything within their power to enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring to justice those responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current and past Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

“An International Criminal Court investigation is crucial to end the pervasive culture of impunity. All sides must push for the Court to investigate such crimes in order to halt the vicious cycle of violations and injustice once and for all”, says Amnesty.

Amnesty asks the Security Council to take immediate steps to refer the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the Prosecutor of the ICC. For Amnesty, “the UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities. It must seize this moment to act decisively for justice.”

Amnesty International is also calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to support a Security Council referral, and take other measures that would allow the ICC to step in and ensure their co-operation with the Court. Continue reading