NGOs Lobbied for Roundtable on “Situation in Palestine,”
Israeli War Crime Charges May Follow
The Hague – The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Court (ICC) is holding an “NGO Roundtable” on October 20 on the “Situation in Palestine” – where the attempt by the Palestinian Authority to accept the Court’s jurisdiction will be debated. After this meeting, the Prosecutor is expected to decide whether to open proceedings against Israeli officials for alleged crimes committed during the Gaza War, notes NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution.
“The Palestinian Authority (PA) purported to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC in order to press the “lawfare” campaign, focusing on labeling Israeli officials as ‘war criminals,’” says Anne Herzberg, legal advisor for NGO Monitor. “This was a clear and transparent political decision by the PA, and contrasts with the spirit and substance of peace negotiations. ‘Palestine’ is not yet a state and as such, is unable to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC. Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have intensively lobbied the OTP as part of their campaign to attack the legitimacy of the State of Israel. The OTP has greatly overstepped its authority by conducting its own highly public campaign for almost two years on this issue. We strongly reject the exploitation of the OTP and the ICC for these political ends.”
The ICC’s jurisdiction is defined by the Rome Statute, which makes clear that only states can accept the Court’s jurisdiction. The Statute was crafted after years of careful diplomatic negotiations – allowing the PA to fall under the Courts’ jurisdiction would essentially amount to a re-writing of the Statute.
Despite this clear legal overreaching, the case has been pushed forward by NGOs that lead the de-legitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel. Al Haq, an NGO active in the region, claims that the Israeli government and military have allegedly made statements “to the effect that they will not be carrying out thorough investigations” regarding the Gaza War. Similarly, NGOs Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l´Homme (FIDH) have claimed that there is a “zone of impunity” in Israel and that “not only is Israel unwilling, Israel’s judicial system is unable to investigate senior government and military officials.”
“The power of externally funded NGOs to distort the realities of the Israeli judicial system cannot be denied,” adds Herzberg. “These claims are false and highly offensive. There clearly is no ‘zone of impunity’ in Israel. Quite the opposite, commitment to the rule of law is deeply engrained in the Israeli justice system. The ICC will hopefully recognize the political agenda behind these campaigns and will not play into the hands of a group of NGOs whose goal is to isolate Israel from the international community.”