Israeli intellectuals call for ICC war crimes investigation
A group of 185 top Israeli scientists and intellectuals called on the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to accept Israel’s investigation into its own alleged war crimes, after the court granted Tel Aviv the opportunity to prove it was conducting an internal inquiry.
In a letter addressed to Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the group called on the ICC to seek the assistance of Israeli human rights organisations to gather evidence.
“We wish to assert at this early stage our deep suspicion, based on past experience, that the State of Israel, including its investigative and legal institutions, has no intention to seriously investigate complaints of war crimes,” the letter said.
“Our suspicion is backed by a very large number of documented cases ostensibly involving war crimes committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories in gross violation of international law. Most of these cases have not been investigated at all, and a few have been concluded with acquittal following a superficial and inadequate investigation,” it continued.
Among the signatories are 10 recipients of the Israel Prize, the state's highest cultural honour, 35 professors and several reserve army officers, authors, intellectuals and researchers.
The letter said that “despite Israel’s image as a state that maintains a proper and professional legal system, the reality paints a different picture – harsh, discriminatory, and outrageous.”
Among the acts of discrimination committed by the state of Israel are the restrictions upon the freedom of movement of Palestinians, the appropriation of Palestinian lands for the purpose of Israeli settlement, arbitrary collective punishment and “the abject failure of the military courts to provide even a semblance of justice.”
“These and more are eminently worthy of investigation by your Court,” the letter reads.
Israel is not a member of the ICC and it has rejected the court’s jurisdiction to investigate its conduct in the Palestinian territories. It claims the Israeli army investigates every incident in which procedures may have been violated and legally pursues any wrongdoings.
In March, the court issued a decision to look into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian armed groups following a request by the Palestinians, who were granted a non-member observer status in the UN General Assembly and joined the court in 2015.
It later sent a formal notice to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, giving them a month to seek deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations.
The probe is expected to focus on the 2014 Gaza war, Israel’s crackdown on border protests in Gaza and Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. It will also look at militant rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
Since the office of the ICC Prosecutor announced last month its intention to push forward with an investigation, Israel has fiercely opposed the decision, accusing the court of bias.
The Palestinians oppose the ICC looking into rocket fire into Israel by Hamas, which rules Gaza.