With the Palestinian Authority heading to the International Criminal Court next week to attempt to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes, Shurat Hadin/Israel Law Center – an Israeli civil rights group which combats and bankrupts terror groups via the legal system – is calling on the ICC to remove the chief prosecutor Mrs. Fatou Bensouda overseeing the case.
In an official letter to the Registrar of the ICC, Herman von Hebel, Shurat Hadin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner details Bensouda's "extreme bias" against Israel, noting several illustrations including an article in Britain's The Guardian entitled "The Public deserves to know the truth about the ICC’s jurisdiction over Palestine."
The move is significant in that it goes above the Chief Prosecutor’s head, directly to the registrar, and is calling for the ICC to oversee the case in a just and impartial manner.
The letter also calls on the ICC to "retroactively revoke your decision to receive the purported declaration made by the so-called
“State of Palestine”… and refrain from accepting any further referrals from the same entity whether under article 12(3) or Article 14."
Shurat Hadin claims that Bensouda was overstepping her legal jurisdiction in issuing her legal "ruling" contained in the article; namely, that the Palestinian Authority – or "The State of Palestine" – can in fact be considered as state according to international law, and thus eligible to sign up to the Rome Statute and join the ICC.
"The issue central to this application is whether “the State of Palestine” – the existence of which the Applicant denies – has settled territory over which it may exercise jurisdiction or effective control for the discrete purpose of article 12(2)(a) of the
Rome Statute," the letter says.
"The boundaries of “Palestine” are still subject to dispute even among Palestinian leaders who continue to debate the question whether to seek recognition of a State within boundaries resulting from the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict or whether to petition for more," it noted.
"Yet even if there was consensus to declare a “State of Palestine” within 1967 borders, this would not entitle the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to refer a situation, as it did, in territory over which its own judicial apparatus has no effective control nor capacity to effect cooperation pursuant to Part IX of the Rome Statute such as those parts of Jerusalem subject to the sovereign authority of the State of Israel."
Moreover, it adds: "The present article 12(3) declaration and the previous one submitted in 2009 jointly constitute a gross breach of undertakings given by the Palestinian Authority itself in the context of the Oslo Accords whereby it agreed that Israel would have
exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal offences committed by Israeli citizens in Gaza."
The letter concludes by calling on the court to halt the PA's ICC move, which Darshan-Leitner argues would set a precedent in subverting international law vis-a-vis the ICC.
"Immediate action on your part is imperative in order to prevent a further Palestinian referral which, so it is rumoured, will be submitted on 25 June 2015. Immediate action on your part is also required in order to prevent the occurrence of any future similar scenario where an entity with aspirations of statehood might seek to subvert customary international law governing the attribution of sovereignty by an abuse of the declaratory process under article 12(3)."