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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