Israel's bombardment of Gaza underscores ICC's critical role: HRW

Israel's bombardment of Gaza underscores ICC's critical role: HRW
2 min read
22 May, 2021
Human Rights Watch and other organisations have for years pressed the ICC to investigate Israeli authorities for “crimes against humanity, apartheid and persecution.”
The ICC opened an investigation into serious crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in March [TASS via Getty]

Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza may amount to war crimes and highlights the importance of the role of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC), Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, calling on all member countries to extend their full support to the prosecutor.

“All the ongoing suffering, bloodshed, dispossession, and destruction should finally put to rest the tired notion that the court has no role to play in Palestine,” Balkees Jarrah, associate director at HRW’s International Justice Program, said in a statement.

The ICC opened an investigation into serious crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in March, following a landmark decision by the court’s judges. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is leading an investigation into unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alleged war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza war 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel considers the Hague-based court as "void of the authority" to begin investigating his country.

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have for years asked the ICC to investigate Israeli authorities for "crimes against humanity, apartheid and persecution".

"The uncomfortable truth is that the appalling loss of civilian lives is the predictable result of past violations for which virtually no one responsible was held to account. Countries that fail to put a check on this impunity play a role in the dire consequences that flow from it," Jarrah said.

But "without more support from the international community, the probe may be in jeopardy", he added.

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At least 246 people, including 65 children, were killed in Gaza since Israel began an airstrike campaign on May 10. An estimated 72,000 people have been displaced, while humanitarian officials say the damage to property and infrastructure could take years to rebuild. Hamas rockets launched from the strip have killed twelve people, including two children, in Israel.

Israel has spared no efforts to shirk the court’s scrutiny.  Netanyahu has called on his allies to reject the investigation and sent the Minister of Defence to hold talks with his German and French counterparts, claiming Israel can its own inquiry.

"ICC member countries in particular need to ensure that the court’s independence is protected, and that it has sufficient means, cooperation, and political backing to effectively do its vital work on behalf of victims of grave abuses across its docket," Jarrah added.