0820 GMT October 31, 2020
The ICC’s prosecutor’s recent decision to accept Palestine as a state with the status to file a complaint could lead to a potential investigation into war crimes by Israel in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to reports.
“The International Criminal Court is a political body, not a judicial institution. This unfortunate reality has been confirmed yet again by the ICC prosecutor’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over Israel, which like the United States, is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the court,” read Pompeo’s statement.
“As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute, we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC,” claimed Pompeo, who was in Israel for a whirlwind visit on Wednesday.
“The United States reiterates its longstanding objection to any illegitimate ICC investigations. If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences,” Pompeo said.
This week, letters signed by senators and US House representatives from both parties urged Pompeo to prevent International Criminal Court prosecution against Israel, and an Israeli delegation traveled to the United States earlier this year for talks on coordinating a joint US-Israeli campaign against the ICC, Israeli television reported.
An Israeli official said the trip was timed to coincide with the ICC’s approval of a war crimes probe in Afghanistan, as American reaction over the decision would underline that both the US and Israel have a common interest in opposing the court.
The ICC probe in Afghanistan will include investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Afghan government forces, the Taliban, American troops and US foreign intelligence operatives.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, announced in December she had concluded her half-decade long preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine and has “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed” by the Israel forces.
At the same time, she acknowledged that The Hague may not have the jurisdiction to deal with the issue. Hence, she asked for a ruling by three ICC judges to determine the scope of the court’s territorial jurisdiction.
The prosecutor herself believes Palestine, which acceded to the Rome Statute, the court’s foundational document, in early 2015, is enough of a state for the purposes of transferring criminal jurisdiction over its territory to the court.