Palestinians to present more war crimes arguments to ICC

The UN General Assembly called on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to investigate alleged war crimes over Gaza offensive.

Palestinians to present more war crimes arguments to ICC

Palestinian Authority officials will present more arguments in March urging the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes during the Israeli offensive in Palestinian-ruled Gaza, the court's chief prosecutor said.

The UN General Assembly in November called on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to investigate alleged war crimes detailed in a UN report by the respected former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone.

The ICC prosecutor launched a preliminary examination in 2009 to establish whether war crimes were committed by either side in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has recognised the ICC's jurisdiction in a bid to allow a court investigation.

The Goldstone report criticizes hasrhly Israel in last year's Dec. 27-Jan. 18 conflict, which killed up to 1,434 Palestinians, a third of them were children. 13 Israelis, including the three civilians in question died in the Israeli war in Gaza.

"They will be back in March with more legal arguments, so we are letting them come here before making any decision," ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview at his office in The Hague.

The UN chief received a 46-page report from Israel in which it denied violating international law.

Jurisdiction?

The ICC can investigate alleged war crimes in a state party's territory if the U.N. Security Council -- where the United States has veto power -- refers a situation to the court or if a non-state party voluntarily accepts its jurisdiction.

However, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Israel has failed to show it will conduct an impartial investigation of the UN report that it committed war crimes during its Gaza offensive last winter.

Israel admitted it used banned weapons in a response to a UN report over artillery shelling in a heavily populated area that hit a United Nations compound during the offensive.

The military has disciplined "two high-ranking officers" for approving the use of white phosphorous shells during the Gaza offensive last year.

However, Human rights groups accuse Israel of being a systematic, random and wide-ranging use of the chemical.

Israel, however, has not signed the Rome Statute creating the court. It also argues that Palestine is not a state and so the ICC has no jurisdiction to start a probe in the Palestinian territories.

But the Palestinian Authority says it is a state, pointing to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation on Palestinian interim self-government.

The prosecutor has received submissions arguing that Palestinians accepted not to exercise criminal jurisdiction over Israelis on their territories.

"They are now evaluating how to conduct a national investigation and if, at the end of the day, they do the investigation, that is preferable." Moreno-Ocampo said.

Hamas call

Human Rights Watch said it was still reviewing the Hamas response.

Hamas said three Israeli civilians killed in rocket attacks by its members during Israel's Gaza offensive last year were hit by mistake.

Meanwhile, Hamas wants what it calls "Zionist war criminals" brought before the International Criminal Court, an official said.

"We ask the United Nations to transfer the matter to the ICC so that the Zionist war criminals can be brought to justice," said Mohammed Faraj al-Ghul, justice minister in the Hamas administration of the Gaza Strip.

However, he also said he expected that the United States would block any such move.

"We expect that the American administration will intervene to block these criminals being judged," Ghul said.


Agencies

Last Mod: 09 Şubat 2010, 08:34
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