The International Criminal Court announced Friday that it is launching a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes committed in Palestinian territories.
“This is an important development in the struggle for accountability. If an investigation is launched and charges are brought and convictions obtained, that could deter Israel from committing such crimes in the future,” Marjorie Cohn, a professor of human rights at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, told teleSUR.
The inquiry is not to be confused with an investigation. Rather, it is the first step for the court to decide whether a full investigation into war crimes is warranted, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office explained in a statement. The scope of the inquiry will probe alleged crimes “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.”
This would cover Israel’s 50-day attack on Gaza last summer, which Tel Aviv dubbed “Operation Protective Edge.” The Israeli military offensive killed over 2,100 Palestinians, more than half of which were civilians, including 495 children and 253 women, according to U.N. figures.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed last week that Palestine would become an official member of the court April 1.
“The case is now in the hands of the court,” said Nabil Abuznaid, head of the Palestinian delegation in The Hague, where the ICC is based. “It is a legal matter now and we have faith in the court system.”
Francis Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, told teleSUR that he thought “it took a lot of guts for the Palestinians to do this and fight back.”
However, he said that unlike Abuznaid, he has little faith that justice will be served for the Palestinians “slaughtered” in last summer’s Israeli military offensive. He said that the ICC principally follows a political agenda largely set by the United States and the West.
This is something Cohn, editor of “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse,” noted as well.
“There is also tremendous political pressure from the U.S. and Israel to avoid such a result,” said Cohn about the prospect of a prosecution. “It remains to be seen whether Bensouda will function as an independent actor and enforce the statute.”
While Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki welcomed the move and said the Palestinian Authority would cooperate, Israel responded harshly.
”Israel categorically rejects the statement by the ICC prosecutor,” reads a statement released the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the decision was scandalous and that Tel Aviv would take international action to have the ICC dismantled.
The ICC, which is independent of the United Nations, was established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.