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Pro-Palestine rights group urges UK to refer Israel to 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)
Pro-Palestine campaigners speak on a platform outside Whitehall in London on 24 March 2023 (By MEE)

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has urged the UK government to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed in Palestine, stressing that the occupying regime’s policies amount to the crime of apartheid and should be deemed a violation of the court’s statute.

Tayab Ali, ICJP director, made the remarks in a letter sent to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Foreign Secretary James Cleverley on Friday, following London’s decision to lead the joint referral of the situation in Ukraine to the ICC, in tandem with a coordinated group of State Parties.

"It is a gross double standard that while the UK government assists and facilitates international accountability and legal action against the leader of one nation for war crimes, they support and engage in friendly relations with another," he said.

"Palestinians are entitled to the same rights and protections under international law as those living in any other territory, and it is imperative that the UK government demonstrates that it supports justice and accountability for the perpetrators of war crimes in all circumstances – regardless of whether the perpetrators of those war crimes are deemed to be friend or foe," he added.

The UK-based NGO further called on London to urgently recognize that the ICC has jurisdiction with respect to the situation in Palestine, and for Britain as an ICC State Party to refer the situation and Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the court.

In the letter, the ICPJ noted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that throughout the 2014 conflict in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli forces committed a number of war crimes, including the targeting of medical personnel and equipment. 

The pro-Palestine rights group also expressed its "deep concern" about the escalation of violence and human rights violations in Palestine, including Israel's recent military operations across the occupied West Bank that resulted in the deaths of at least 85 Palestinians since January 2023.

The ICPJ further denounced Israel’s continued illegal settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, stressing that these extremist policies would embolden the regime’s participation in acts which fall within the definition of the crime of apartheid, contrary to the ICC statute.

The latest development came as Netanyahu visited his British counterpart Sunak in London on Friday, amid protests organized by British Jewish and Israeli groups, as well as pro-Palestine activists.

Hundreds of demonstrators shouted “shame” as Netanyahu arrived at 10 Downing Street to discuss a wide range of issues, including security and the need to strengthen strategic ties between Britain and Israel.

The visit came after the two sides signed a so-called '2030 roadmap for UK-Israel relations" on Tuesday.

The deal has been condemned as "hypocritical" and "disappointing but not surprising" by Palestinian and international human rights groups.

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