International Criminal Court opens initial probe into recent Gaza conflict

16 January 2015

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today announced that she has opened a preliminary examination into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, following the accession earlier this month by the Palestinian Authority to the Court’s founding Rome Statute.

A news release from the ICC notes that Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened an initial examination of the situation following the Palestinian Government accession to the Rome Statute on 2 January 2015 and its declaration of 1 January 2015, accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC ‘over alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.’

The Palestinian Government had earlier confirmed that it would seek retroactive action against Israel at The Hague-based ICC for alleged crimes committed by Israel in Gaza last summer. Nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis died during the 50-day conflict that ended in August. The ICC probe will examine the actions of all parties.

Today, Ms. Bensouda said that her Office will conduct its analysis of the situation ‘in full independence and impartiality.’ The Office also notes that a ‘preliminary examination’ is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute.

According to the news release, specifically, under the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination. The Office gives due consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to the Office during the course of a preliminary examination, strictly guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute in the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate.

“There are no timelines provided in the Rome Statute for a decision on a preliminary examination,” says the news releases, adding that depending on the facts and circumstances of each situation, the Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether to continue to collect information to establish a sufficient factual and legal basis to render a determination; initiate an investigation, subject to judicial review as appropriate; or decline to initiate an investigation.


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