25 NGOs to ICC: End Impunity and Open an Investigation on Palestine

Twenty-five human right organizations, including coalitions of such, have sent a letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) urging it to open an investigation into the situation in Palestine. According to the signatories of the letter, the ICC “is the only viable independent judicial body capable of ending impunity for crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory [sic] and effectively deterring the commission of future crimes.”

Almost four years have passed since the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine at the ICC, following the submission of an article 12(3) declaration that allows it to hold to account individuals for the commission of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), including those committed during Israel’s 2014 military offensive against the Gaza Strip in which 1,600 Palestinian civilians were killed.

Some of the devastation in the Palestinian city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, resulting from an attack launched by Israel on "Black Friday” in August 2014 against a residential area and during which more than 200 Palestinian civilians were killed

Some of the devastation in the Palestinian city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, resulting from an attack launched by Israel on “Black Friday” in August 2014 against a residential area and during which more than 200 Palestinian civilians were killed (Photo: Amnesty International)

Since the opening of the preliminary examination, more than 550 Palestinians have been killed and Israeli forces have injured tens of thousands of Palestinians. Israel has indefensibly and willfully killed unarmed Palestinian protesters in increasing numbers in the context of the 2018 Great March of Return demonstrations in the occupied Gaza Strip, during which Palestinians have been demanding that their right to return to their homes be fulfilled and that Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip be lifted.

Palestinians protesting Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and related policies of settler transfer into the city were also killed at an alarming rate by Israeli forces between 2014 and 2015. Israel has also accelerated its transfer of settlers into the OPT, and appropriated significant and extensive swaths of Palestinian land to pave the way for the merging of settlements with Israel while dividing Palestinian families and communities. The expropriation and destruction of Palestinian property has resulted in the displacement of thousands of Palestinians since 2015. The implementation of an order to destroy the Khan Al-Ahmar community situated between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim is immanent, which will result in the forcible transfer of its 180 residents.

The situation in the occupied Gaza Strip is dire due to Israel’s imposition of the unlawful closure that denies Palestinians freedom of movement and access to basic life-sustaining services. We are quickly approaching year 2020 which represents, according to the United Nations, the predicted moment in time when the Gaza Strip will become uninhabitable.

According to the signatories “The situation in Palestine is rapidly deteriorating and war crimes and crimes against humanity are allegedly frequently [being] committed to entrench Israeli control over Palestinian territory and the Palestinian people. This year marked 51 years since the beginning of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory and so far, it has been characterized by complete impunity. There is no domestic mechanism capable of or willing to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators, including high-level officials, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Neither is there a willingness to put in place such a mechanism. To the contrary, in August 2018, an Israeli court, for the first time, legitimized an Israeli settlement constructed on appropriated Palestinian land. That same month, the Israeli military investigation mechanism closed files on [the] “Black Friday” killings [of 2014 during which] over a period of 4 days, Israeli armed forces killed more than 200 Palestinian civilians in Rafah.”

“The occupation of the Palestinian territory may be one of the most well-documented situations, with a long list of eminent United Nations experts, inquiries and missions having issued lengthy reports alleging that international crimes have been committed and that violations of international humanitarian and human rights law have occurred,” the letter notes.

Among the signatories of the letter: Al-Haq, Aldameer Association for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Addameer, BADIL, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.