Fifty senior figures defend ICC probe into Palestine crimes

Fifty senior international figures defend ICC investigation into Palestine war crimes in open letter
2 min read
02 June, 2021
More than 50 former prime ministers, foreign ministers, and senior international officials have signed a letter condemning attacks on the ICC and attempts to stop it investigating suspected war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Former US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after she announced an investigation into potential Israeli war crimes [Getty]

More than 50 former prime ministers, foreign ministers, and senior international officials have signed an open letter to the UK newspaper The Guardian condemning attempts to stop the International Criminal Court (ICC) from investigating suspected war crimes in Palestine.

The letter, which was published by The Guardian on Monday, followed Israel's deadly 11-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 254 people, including 66 children and its recent attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In December 2020, the administration of former US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the ICC’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda and another court official in response to the ICC ruling that it had the authority to investigate alleged war crimes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The letter denounced "increasing attacks on the ICC, its staff and cooperating civil society groups".

"We witnessed with serious concern the executive order issued in the United States by the former president Donald Trump and the sanctions designated against the court's staff and their family members," it said.

Current US President Joe Biden rescinded Trump's sanctions on the ICC officials in April but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has characterised the ICC investigation as "pure antisemitism" and this has been backed up by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said in April that the investigation gave "the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK's".

Among the letter's signatories were two former cabinet ministers from Johnson's Conservative Party, Sayeeda Warsi and Chris Patten.

"Deeply worrying is now the unwarranted public criticism of the court regarding its investigation of alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including unfounded accusations of antisemitism," it said.

"Attempts to discredit the court and obstruct its work cannot be tolerated if we are serious about promoting and upholding justice globally," the letter added.

The letter's signatories also included former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Italian Prime Minister Massimo d’Alema and former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, as well as former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Hans Blix, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The signatories said that while they understood "fears of politically motivated complaints and investigations", the Rome Statute which established the ICC "guarantees the highest criteria of justice and provides a crucial avenue to address impunity for the world's most serious crimes".

"Failure to act would have grave consequences," they added.