Israeli NGO files war crimes complaint as ICC accepts Gaza conflict jurisdiction


An Israeli NGO has filed war crimes complaints against three Palestinian officials yesterday, whilst the ICC confirmed that the Palestinians had accepted its jurisdiction with respect to events in the summer.

Last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute, which paves the way to joining the ICC and potential legal action against Israeli leaders and officials. The Palestinians also made a declaration to the ICC that they accepted its jurisdiction with respect to “crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.” The move was condemned by both Israel and the United States, as it is likely to create barriers to a future negotiated agreement.

Yesterday, in response to Palestinian documentation, the ICC confirmed that it had received the Palestinian declaration accepting jurisdiction for the period following 13 June, but added in a statement that it was for the ICC Prosecutor to establish whether criteria for opening an investigation had been met.

Meanwhile, the legal group Shurat Hadin (Israel Law Centre), which works towards bringing Palestinian terror suspects to justice, yesterday submitted a complaint against Jibril Rajoub, the deputy leader of Abbas’s Fatah faction, as Fatah “openly boasted” during Operation Protective Edge that “it launched projectiles that caused the injury and death of Israeli civilians.” Complaints were also filed against PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA intelligence chief Majid Fara over civil rights abuses and and killings of Palestinians in PA territory. Shurat Hadin has previously launched suits against Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. In all these cases the individuals are under the jurisdiction of the court regardless of the Palestinian accession, because they are citizens of Jordan, which is already a Party to the court.

Shurat HaDin chairperson Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner warned that, “The Palestinian leadership is playing with fire” with complaints against Israelis applicable only from the time at which the Palestinian ICC application was made. By contrast, Darshan-Leitner explained, the likes of Abbas, Hamdallah, Rajoub and Fara are liable for acts committed since 2002 when Jordan joined the ICC.

Also yesterday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that Washington is considering cutting aid to the PA in response to the ICC application. She said, “The next step would be Congress deciding what step or action they may take as it relates to assistance.” However, she also criticised Israel’s decision to freeze around £83 million in Palestinian tax revenues which it collects on behalf of the PA leadership, saying “We oppose any actions that raise tensions.”