Key Issue:International Criminal Court (ICC) and NGOs
On February 5, 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it has the jurisdiction to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the “State of Palestine.” On March 3, 2021, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda announced the launch of a formal investigation. The investigation is to a significant degree the product of consistent and heavy lobbying of the ICC for over a decade by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These include Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and a number of groups with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.
On December 20, 2019, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda announced that she intended to investigate alleged war crimes in the “State of Palestine.” This move is to a significant degree the product of consistent and heavy lobbying of the ICC for over a decade by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These include Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and a number of groups with ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.
In deciding to pursue an investigation of Israel, ICC Prosecutor Bensouda also met with a number of terror-tied organizations and groups promoting demonization campaigns targeting Israel. These NGOs are also cited in various ICC documents related to the investigation.
Primary NGOs Involved in Lobbying the ICC
- In March 2020, PCHR submitted two amicus briefs to the International Criminal Court.
- Alongside Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and Al-Dameer, PCHR submitted an amicus brief “welcom[ing[ and support[ing] the findings of the Prosecutor that there is a reasonable basis to believe that international crimes have been committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”
- PCHR submitted a second amicus brief “on behalf of hundreds of Palestinian individual victims residing in the Gaza Strip…. who have suffered direct harm as a result of grave crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
- According to PCHR, in December 2019, “Lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)… delivered [a] speechat the annual General Assembly.” During his speech, Sourani addressed Bensouda: “we were very consistent in working with the ICC and your office, and we cooperated fully in providing full facts needed in this regard…we were able to bring you tens of witnesses over video conferences…Palestinian human rights organizations provided really significant material to your office.”
- PCHR has also submitted various documents to the ICC alongside Al-Dameer, Al Mezan, and Al-Haq. (See more on these submissions below.)
- Amnesty has called for ICC investigations into Israel surrounding its conflicts with Gaza in both 2009 and 2014.
- According to Amnesty, “Amnesty International has been calling for ICC Prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by all parties to the armed conflict, so that prosecutions may take place in fair trials. For years, Amnesty International and other organizations have gathered and published compelling evidence that war crimes and other crimes under international law committed by Israel and Palestinian armed groups.”
- In March 2020, Amnesty supported the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s decision to launch an investigation against Israel because “For over half a century Israel has committed crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).”According to Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director Phillip Luther, “Today’s decision by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is a historic step towards justice after decades of war crimes and other crimes under international law committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This announcement offers a crucial opportunity to break the cycle of impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also been a leading proponent of an ICC investigation targeting Israel. It has promoted this agenda by pushing the PA to ascend to the ICC, lobbying the ICC prosecutor, and publishing reports with spurious arguments alleging Israeli violations of international law.
- On February 19, 2019, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda met with Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Ken Roth. A tweet from the official ICC account stated that civil society “continues to play and indispensable role in promoting the fight against #impunity for #atrocity crimes.” On September 26, 2019, Bensouda met with Human Rights Watch(HRW) Director of International Justice Program Richard Dicker.
- On June 4, 2017, HRW released a statement on “50 Years of Occupation Abuses” accusing Israel of “major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law” and “war crimes.” The statement further called upon the International Criminal Court to “open a formal investigation into serious crimes committed in Israel and Palestine.” (Omar Shakir also posted the report in video form on Twitter.)
- Al-Dameer, Al Mezan, Al-Haq, and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
- Since 2015, the four NGOs (three of which have ties to the terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) have submitted various documents to the court alleging Israeli war crimes. According to the NGOs, “high-level Israeli civilian and military officials have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem” and have called for the Prosecutor at the ICC to “open an investigation into the serious international crimes committed during the July-August 2014 Israeli military offensive.”
- In March 2020, these NGOs submitted an amicus brief to the ICC “welcom[ing[ and support[ing] the findings of the Prosecutor that there is a reasonable basis to believe that international crimes have been committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”
- For twenty years, FIDH has been a vocal proponent of exploiting the ICC and universal jurisdiction to target Israelis. FIDH is active in attempts to bring “war crimes” cases against Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC), including submitting case files following the 2009 Gaza conflict and a letter to President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas encouraging him to ratify the Rome Statute.
- In March 2020, FIDH submitted an amicus brief to the ICC supporting “the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction in this situation and the prompt initiation of an investigation.”
- In 2015, FIDH actively lobbied for the PA to accede to the International Criminal Court.
- In March 2020, B’Tselem stated that “The ICC can – and must – investigate the situation in Palestine.” According to an email, “Israel may finally have to start considering the price for its crimes against the Palestinians. We hope the court will make the right decision to back the Prosecutor’s position and rule: there is jurisdiction, and there will be an investigation.” B’Tselem also published a press release and position paper that accused Israel of using the Holocaust to justify its policies vis-a-via the Palestinians, “the very values that the ICC is meant to safeguard – the values that the world has been trying to promote since the end of World War II, in response to the unspeakable atrocities committed during that dark chapter in history. With shameless cynicism, Israel is trying to use these very horrors to justify continued oppression, land grab and killings at its own hands.”
NGO Statements and Letters
- In November 2019, 203 NGOs signed a letter to Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda, calling to open “an official, full-scale investigation into the ‘situation in Palestine’” and the “possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed” as the “absence of an official investigation…has fuelled the already existing culture of impunity.”
- Signatories include Addameer, Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Applied Research institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), BADIL, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Article 1 Collective, Rights Forum, ICAHD Finland, Samidoun, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Broederlijk Delen, Association France Palestine Solidarite (AFPS), among others.
- In September 2018, 25 NGOs sent a letter to ICC Prosecutor Bensouda calling to open an investigation as the “situation in Palestine is rapidly deteriorating and war crimes and crimes against humanity are allegedly frequently committed to entrench Israeli control over Palestinian territory and the Palestinian people” and there is a need to “prosecute and convict perpetrators, including high-level officials of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
- Signatories include Al-Haq, Al-Dameer, Al Mezan, Addameer, Association Belgo-Palestinienne, Article 1 Collective, BADIL, Center for Constitutional Rights, Defense for Children international – Palestine (DCI-P), EuroMed Rights, FIDH, Hurryat, Jerusalem legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Rights Forum, Trocaire, and Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
- In May 2014, 17 NGOs sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to “ensure that Palestine pursues the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by promptly acceding to the Rome Statute and/or filing a further declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on Palestinian territory from 1 July 2002.”
- Signatories include Addameer, Al-Dameer, Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Amnesty International, BADIL, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling.