Friday March 5th 2021
Israeli premier Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered a diplomatic offensive to try to block the International Criminal Court inquiry into war crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank since 2014, which was launched earlier this week.
A panel of judges gave the Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda the go-ahead to start the inquiry on February 5th and she moved quickly to announce it on Wednesday March 3rd – before Netanyahu could mount any effective pressure. .
But there are still two ways in which the inquiry could be blocked. The ICC could be starved of funds and forced to cancel it for lack on resources. ,And the next chief prosecutor, Scottish barrister Karim Khan, who takes over in June, could be persuaded not to go ahead.
It has taken six years to get to this stage. Palestine submitted its complaint to the ICC in 2015. And now it is vital that the inquiry goes ahead not only for Palestine but for the ICC itself.
Since the court opened its doors in The Hague in 2003 the vast majority of its investigations have been in Africa – Uganda; Congo; Darfur, Sudan; Central African Republic, Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi; Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan. If it pulled out of this inquiry, the organisation’s future would be in doubt.
The investigation will consider Israel army attacks on civilians in the 2014 war, Hamas attacks on civilians in the same war, illegal settlements in the West Bank and Israeli Army for attacks on unarmed protesters on the fence protests in 2018.
The court can only take action against individuals, not states. The Israeli government has already drawn up a list of ministers, senior military and civil servants who could be sanctioned. They could be banned from visiting all countries that are members of the ICC, including the UK, but not the US. Assets could be seized.