International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Israel Threatening to Defund ICC in Light of Recent War Crimes Investigations

Since January 16, 2015, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has being pursuing a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed in Gaza, in which Israel allegedly led an offensive involving war crimes that killed 2,300 and left 500,000 without homes. Last month, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that they would demand of their allies in Canada, Australia, and Germany to cease providing funding for the ICC. Since the investigations have begun, Israel has been able to force the head of the UN inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, the military mission launched by Israel in Gaza, to resign. Since then, Israel has been calling on state parties to defund the Court.

These war crimes allegations stem, in part, from attacks on schools and buildings in Gaza that appear to be unrelated to military objectives. Investigations by Human Rights Watch have revealed that during Operation Protective Edge, three Gaza schools were attacked. According to the watchdog, one of those attacks was disproportionate and indiscriminate, while the other two attacks did not seem to fulfill any necessary military objective and were also indiscriminate. An Amnesty International Investigation further revealed attacks by Israel on Gaza buildings, in which it appears that civilians and buildings were deliberately targeted on such a huge scale, and according to Amnesty, were militarily unnecessary actions.

How can the ICC investigate these crimes? As we learned in class, the ICC has jurisdiction when the perpetrator is a national of the state party, when the crimes committed were done so in the territory of the state party, or when the Security Council refers a conflict. Well, back in January, the Palestinian government ratified the Rome Statute, which thus made it a state party. Through territorial jurisdiction, this ratification gave the ICC jurisdiction over possible war crimes committed in East Jerusalem and Gaza.

This call to defund may become significant, especially in light of the fact that the ICC depends upon voluntary contributions in order to function. Some of Israel’s allies, France, Britain, and Germany, are big powers whose loss of funding may have the potential to impact the ability of the Court to deliver justice. Moreover, losing funding could also pose a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the Court, as Israel has called upon member states (122 in total) to defund the Court, justifying this request through claims that the Court is purely political. As of now, these three allies have ignored Israel’s request, though it will be interesting to see what happens as the investigation into these crimes gets deeper.

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2 responses to “Israel Threatening to Defund ICC in Light of Recent War Crimes Investigations

  1. pollorey February 14, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Similar to the actions of Ugandan and Sudanese elites, the Israeli government has been notorious for manipulating the international community with the intentions of enhancing its own nation’s interests. In terms of the 2003 political prosecutions, the Ugandan government repeatedly threatened to withdraw its cooperation with the ICC if any government or military personnel were to be indicted. In Sudan, the Courts have been banned from entry into the regions in which genocide occurred, thereby hampering any further investigations by the ICC. By the same token, Israel is using the threat to defund the ICC as a means of deterring investigations of possible war crimes committed by its own government. Contrary to the situation in Darfur, however, it should be easier for ICC officials to carry out an investigation and pursue a case against Israel due to the fact that the area of investigation is not within Israeli territory. The states asked to follow in Israel’s example should not be expected to follow through, as it would be in their self-interest to maintain the Court. It is interesting to see how this story will pan out, however, seeing as Israel shares strong foreign relations with four out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, an organ of the UN which has a strong precedence over the actions of the ICC.

  2. zbest2015 February 16, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Ever since the Palestinian Authority began its attempts to become and signatory of the Rome Statute and join the ICC, Israel has made effort to prevent Palestine from gaining more legitimacy on the international stage. However, Israel has never — at least publicly — challenged the the theory or practice of the ICC.

    There has been tension between the ICC and states before; however, Israel’s response seems particularly aggressive and defensive. The ICC has questioned the legality of the United States and Britain in the case of the Iraq War; while both states clearly articulated their strong distaste for the ICC’s investigation, they maintained their support for the court and the principles it upholds.

    Israel has accused the ICC of being biased against the state and has engaged in public campaigns to delegitimize the court. However, analysts have noted that taking such aggressive moves against the ICC might serve to further isolate Israel, and the defensive measures the state is taking could serve as another indicator that the Israeli government is trying to cover up the actions of its military.

    The nature of the ICC makes it inevitable that it will occasionally clash with states. However, Israel is escalating the tensions between itself and the court to a near unprecedented degree; it will be interesting to see the reaction of the court and the rest of the international community, and whether Israel’s actions result in a stain on the court’s reputation, or have the opposite effect.

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