British Jewish lawyers have added their submissions to the International Criminal Court at The Hague after prosecutors said they would investigate accusations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza in 2014.
In December, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was satisfied that war crimes had been committed by Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and/or the Gaza Strip, but sought a ruling on the scope of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction.
Dozens of submissions, including from the governments of the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Australia and Brazil, have now been filed with the ICC. Most indicate an intention to dispute the Court’s jurisdiction.
Among those involving British lawyers was a joint application by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), the International Legal Forum, Bnai Brith UK, the Jerusalem Initiative and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Another separate application was lodged by UKLFI patron Lord David Pannick, together with Prof Robert Badinter, Prof Irwin Cotler, Prof David Crane, Prof Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens and Prof Guglielmo Verdirame.
UKLFI said lawyers and Jewish groups were “fighting back against the attempt to misuse the ICC by turning it into yet another international institution to bash the only Jewish state”.
The ICC was created to ensure accountability for the most serious war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, when these crimes were not prosecuted by the States concerned. UKLFI said Israel investigated accusations of IDF crimes.
Bensouda has said she was persuaded that there was evidence of war crimes by Israelis in the conflict in Gaza in 2014 and in the “transfer” of Israelis into “occupied territory,” in a reference to the expansion of West Bank settlements.
She also felt that the ICC had jurisdiction on the basis that these alleged crimes were committed on the territory of “the State of Palestine,” which was given non-member observer status at the United Nations in 2012.
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit issued a detailed memorandum arguing that Palestine was not a State and under the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority does not have jurisdiction over Israelis that it could delegate to the ICC.
UKLFI chair Jonathan Turner said he was “pleased to be given an opportunity to assist the ICC to reach a correct decision in this matter, which is very important for Israel, but also for other states including the UK, since acceptance of the Prosecutor’s argument could have serious implications for peace and international stability all round the world”.
He added: “We hope that the Court will pay careful attention to all of the submissions, including those of the seven States and many leading practitioners of international law who intend to file observations.”