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Don't rely on Israel to probe war crimes, over 180 Israeli intellectuals warn ICC

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, Israeli soldiers aim their weapons at Palestinian protesters during clashes in the occupied central West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Photo by AFP)

More than 180 Israeli intellectuals, authors and academics have called on the International Criminal Court (ICC)'s chief prosecutor not to accept Israel's own findings into war crimes across the occupied territories, noting that the regime does not intend to carry out a serious investigation into the matter.

The group of Israelis suggested in a letter addressed to Fatou Bensouda that The Hague-based tribunal should instead obtain the assistance of Israeli human rights organizations to gather evidence of war crimes committed by Israeli military forces.

The letter was signed by 185 people, including 10 Israel Prize recipients and 35 professors, in addition to senior reserve army officers, authors, intellectuals, activists and researchers.

“We wish to assert at this early stage our deep suspicion, based on past experience, that Israel, including its investigative and legal institutions, has no intention to seriously investigate complaints of war crimes,” the letter read.

“Our suspicion is backed by a very large number of documented cases ostensibly involving war crimes committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories in gross violation of international law," it said. 

“Most of these cases have not been investigated at all, and a few have been concluded with acquittal following a superficial and inadequate investigation,” the letter pointed out.

Back in early March, Bensouda announced in a statement the launch of a war crimes investigation into the Palestinian territories, which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

She said her inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed the prosecutor’s announcement.

It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.

Hamas resistance movement also praised the ICC’s move at the time.

“We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice for the victims of our people,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman said.

“Our resistance is legitimate and it comes to defend our people. All international laws approve legitimate resistance,” Qassem noted.

Palestine was accepted as an ICC member in 2015, three years after signing the court's founding Rome Statute, based on its “observer state” status at the United Nations.

Both Israel and the United States have refused to sign up to the ICC, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world's worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


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