The International Criminal Court is exploring ways to prosecute Israeli occupation commanders over war crimes in Gaza, the London-based The Times newspaper reported Monday.
According to the paper, the alleged crimes include the use of deadly white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas. Israel initially denied using the controversial weapon, which causes horrific burns, but was forced later, in the face of mounting evidence, to admit to having deployed it and order the Israeli occupation army to launch an investigation into the matter, The Times said.
When Palestinian groups petitioned the ICC this month, its prosecutor said that it was unable to take the case because it had no jurisdiction over Israel, a non-signatory to the court. Now, however, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, has told The Times that he is examining the case for Palestinian jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in Gaza.
Palestinian groups have submitted arguments asserting that the Palestinian Authority is the de facto state in the territory where the crimes were committed, the report said. “It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court. They are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state,” Moreno-Ocampo told The Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Part of the Palestinian argument rests on the Israeli insistence that it has no responsibility for Gaza under international law since it withdrew from the territory in 2006.
“They are quoting jurisprudence,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “It’s very complicated. It’s a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law.”
He added that his examination of the case did not necessarily reflect a belief that war crimes had been committed in Gaza. Determining jurisdiction was a first step, he said, and only after it had been decided could he launch an investigation.
Palestinian lawyers argue that the Palestinian Authority should be allowed to refer the cases in Gaza on this same ad hoc basis – despite its lack of internationally recognized statehood.
According to The Times, the case has wide-reaching ramifications for the Palestinian case for statehood. If the court rejects the case, it will highlight the legal black hole that Palestinians find themselves in while they remain stateless.