Palestine has called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into what it describes as “insurmountable” evidence that Israel has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on Palestinian territory.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki met with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to discuss the issue at the Court, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands.
"Through this referral, we want the Office of the Prosecutor to open, without delay, an investigation into all crimes that she presently concludes have been commissioned or are ongoing," said Malki. "This referral is Palestine's test to the international mechanism of accountability and respect for international law." Although the PA and pro-Palestinian nonprofits have submitted documents to The Hague-based court detailing the Israeli government's crimes in the occupied territories and requested a formal investigation over the past few years this is the first time Palestine has never formally referred a case.
"The State of Palestine took an important and historic step towards justice for the Palestinian people who continue to suffer from ongoing, widespread and systematic crimes," said Malki during a press conference after the meeting.
He added that the referral addressed many issues, including, "settlement expansion, land grabs, illegal exploitation of natural resources, as well as the brutal and calculated targeting of unarmed protesters, particularly in the Gaza Strip."
While Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute - the ICC treaty to which all members are bound - its nationals could be tried by The Hague-based court for crimes committed on Palestinian territory
The State of Palestine formally joined the ICC in April 2015, giving the court jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory since June 13, 2014 - including Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2014. The ICC's Office of the Prosecutor began its preliminary examination of the "situation in Palestine" in January 2015.
Alex Whiting, a former ICC official, said that a state referral could help push things forward as it would make it "much harder" for the Office of the Prosecutor "to stay in the preliminary examination phase for years."
Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) also voted to dispatch a team of international experts to Gaza to determine whether Israel committed war crimes by shooting and killing unarmed Palestinian protesters participating in the Great March of Return to demand the right to return to their pre-1948 homes.