Published in: Palestine
Palestinian attorneys and civil society groups have strongly urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to speed up inquiries into Israeli abuses and war crimes against Palestinians.
Lawyers, representing 448 named victims mostly of Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Strip back in the summer of 2014, along with over 50 Palestinian trade unions and groups submitted a thick dossier to the ICC prosecutor’s office on Wednesday, showing “clearly that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed.”
The 50-day Israeli military aggression against Gaza killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. Over 11,100 others — including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people — were also wounded in the war.
In February 2015, the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by President Mahmoud Abbas, appointed a 45-member committee, chaired by Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Saeb Erekat, to gather evidence of Israeli abuse and war crimes against Palestinians.
In June 2015, the committee formally handed over to The Hague-based ICC several dossiers on the Israeli war on Gaza, the regime’s illegal settlement construction in the occupied territories, and the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody.
However, almost no progress has been made in the process of examining the submitted documents and evidence by the ICC, which initially said it had launched a preliminary examination of the dossiers.
“For two years, Palestine is under preliminary examination,” said lawyer Gilles Devers in a press conference on Wednesday. “In Gaza, we think two years is too long.” He added that the Israeli military operations in the 2014 Gaza war constituted war crimes and the “ICC was competent” to handle the case.
Devers said the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had “an obligation” to turn the preliminary examination into a full probe.
Palestinian activists also told journalists that the long-awaited probe had stalled, calling on both the ICC and the PA to speed up the examining process.
The Israeli regime, which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, has already rejected that it has committed war crimes, saying the international court has no authority to hear Palestine’s allegations since “it is not a country,” and because Israel’s so-called judicial system is independent and can itself examine war crime accusations.
Over 30 lawyers in the Palestinian occupied territories helped draft the fresh dossier.
It was the first time that Palestinian civil groups, including physicians, farmers, fishermen, and educators, were appealing directly to the international tribunal.
They said they had stepped forward because of “the lack of political will on behalf of the Palestinian Authority,” which had not raised an official complaint as a state member of The Hague-based court.
Gaza, with a population of more than 1.8 million, has been under siege by the Israeli regime since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
Furthermore, the occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since Israeli forces introduced restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.
More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the ongoing tensions since the beginning of October 2015.
The Tel Aviv regime has tried to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds over the past decades by constructing settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population. Palestinians say the Israeli measures are aimed at paving the way for the Judaization of the city.
Abuses against children
On Tuesday, the rights group Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) said in a report that between January and May this year, the Israeli regime arrested some 331 Palestinian minors, marking a 62-percent increase compared to the same period in the years 2012 to 2015.
The NGO further said that the Israeli military forces regularly abused Palestinian children, denying them food, subjecting them to beating and other forms of coercion, and preventing them from accessing legal aid and counsel.
According to Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the DCIP’s accountability program director, Israel has systematically and extensively ill-treated Palestinian children in its military detention centers over the past decade.
“From the persistent and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children, to the systematic denial of their due process rights, emerges a system of control far removed from justice,” he said in the report.
The DCIP said that in 81 percent of the detention cases it had registered between January and June, the children arrested had been strip searched upon detention, and two thirds of them had been deprived of legal counsel prior to interrogation.
The Israeli regime prosecutes up to 700 minors in its military courts each year.