Palestine is a state and the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction involving its cases, the ICC prosecutor ruled Thursday, which could pave the way for a war crimes investigation against Israel.
A three-judge panel of the ICC Pretrial Chamber must now affirm the decision by Fatou Bensouda.
Israel has been accused of committing war crimes in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Israel is not a signer of the Rome Statute and therefore is not a part of the ICC. The Palestinian Authority is, even though it is not a full member state of the United Nations.
Under Bensouda’s 60-page decision, the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction in “territory” that “comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”
Some 50 briefs, both for and against Israel, were filed in the case. The countries that have filed briefs in support of Israel include the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Australia, Hungary, Brazil and Uganda, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The ICC is overseen by the Assembly of State Parties, the legislative branch of the organisation, which has accepted Palestine as a state.
NGO Monitor, a pro-Israel watchdog group, criticised Bensouda’s decision.
“She completely ignores the overwhelming and decisive information provided to the Court by dozens of Middle East and legal experts as well as seven ICC Member States, proving that the Court has no jurisdiction in this matter,” the group said in a statement. “Instead, she relies on unsupported claims by pro-BDS and terror-linked NGOs and one-sided rhetoric from biased UN bodies, like the Human Rights Council.”