The rights groups, in a joint open letter initiated by Palestinian coalitions representing over 200 civil society organizations, said they overwhelmingly support the Prosecutor’s findings submitted to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber earlier this year.
“We urge that in light of the pervasive climate of impunity, which has prevailed for over five decades in the occupied Palestinian territory, perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine … be held accountable at the International Criminal Court,” they said in the letter.
Back on December 19, 2019, Bensouda said in a statement that the court would launch a full investigation into war crimes in the Palestinian territories, as there is a “reasonable basis” to probe into the situation in Palestine.
“In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (al-Quds), and the Gaza Strip,” she noted at the time, without specifying the perpetrators of the crimes.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates later welcomed the ICC plan in a statement, saying, “Palestine welcomes this step as a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination.”
The ruling was immediately rejected by the US and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described it as a “baseless and scandalous decision.”
Israel and the US have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world’s worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We are cognizant of the fact that there is even broader and more widespread support from within Palestine, regionally, and internationally for an investigation by the International Criminal Court into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including crimes committed against civilian health workers, journalists, and children,” further read the letter by the rights bodies to the ICC prosecutor chief.
The human rights groups also highlighted that opposition by a number of European states to the ICC prosecutor’s investigation does not represent the positions of civil society organizations in those countries.
“We have long supported the work of Palestinian civil society organizations in their pursuit of human rights, justice, the rule of law, and accountability at the International Criminal Court,” the letter read, adding, “The International Criminal Court is truly a ‘court of last resort.’ It is time for justice. It is time for an investigation.”
The Palestinian Authority, which signed up to the ICC in 2015, has already accepted the court’s jurisdiction, but has repeatedly urged the court to move faster.
A full ICC investigation could possibly lead to charges against individuals being brought.