ICC’s failure to hold Israel accountable destroys its credibility

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AMMAN – In the realm of international justice, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has faced significant hurdles in holding Israel accountable for alleged abuses against Palestinians which has over time raised concerns about the court's credibility. اضافة اعلان

This week the ICC’s prosecutor Karim Khan visited the families of Israeli abductees and met with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. A visit that has been criticized as being one-sided and sympathetic to an occupying power that has made a mockery of International law in the last two months.

“I have made it crystal clear. The law is not some cosmetic adornment that can be disregarded. It's a fundamental requirement that must be complied with. Schools, hospitals, churches and mosques, dwelling houses are protected and must not be bombed,” he said in a statement following the visit.

“I've made it also abundantly clear that the law can't be interpreted in a way that it denudes it from meaning, that hollows it out.”

Yet Khan’s lip service appeared to do just that, by failing to visit Gaza, and spending the majority of his time in Israel, Khan systematically fell into the both-sides that has come to represent the conflict. Moreover, his critique of Israeli crimes, whilst welcome, appeared to many to show that once again, despite the mounting evidence of genocide the ICC had again failed to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

This point was made abundantly clear by Hamas which condemned Khan for his bias towards the false and misleading narrative of the occupation.

In a press statement reported by Amad Media, Hamas said Khan's visit to the "Zionist entity" and his issuing of prejudiced judgments on the events of October 7 without visiting the Gaza Strip and listening to the other party, contradicted the minimum requirements of justice and legal procedures.

By failing to heed the call of countless lawyers and human rights organizations, and bring the hammer down on the occupation, Khan had proven once again that the law and its prosecutors were nothing more than the “cosmic adornment” that he feared.

Since its inception in 1994, the ICC, designed to address serious international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, and violations of the Geneva Conventions, has grappled with the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Despite certain crimes falling under universal jurisdiction, historically, criminal prosecutions have been left to individual states or ad hoc tribunals formed by the victorious side in international conflicts, such as the Nuremberg Trials. The ICC was expected to usher in a new era of accountability, yet its effectiveness has been questioned.

The ICC's jurisdiction covers crimes in the occupied territories, including apartheid, making it particularly relevant to the Israel-Palestine situation. However, Israel, with the support of the United States, has employed various tactics to impede any meaningful ICC action. Notably, Israel has refused to sign the Rome Convention, preventing it from joining the ICC, and has wielded procedural maneuvers to dispute the court's jurisdiction.

The Palestinian National Authority's initial reluctance to sign the Rome Statute, coupled with Israel's pressure tactics, added complexity to the situation. Even after signing in 2015, the PA hesitated to call for ICC investigations into Israel's actions, fearing repercussions from both Israel and the U.S.

In March 2021, the ICC prosecutor finally initiated an investigation into war crimes in the Palestinian territories, including those attributed to both Israel and Hamas. However, progress since then has been slow, prompting UN special rapporteurs to urge the ICC prosecutor to expedite action.

One significant challenge lies in the concept of complementarity, where the ICC's jurisdiction is complementary to national courts. Israel has asserted that its independent and effective courts should handle alleged crimes, presenting a potential obstacle for the ICC. Paradoxically, proposed judicial reforms in Israel, criticized for weakening the courts, could undermine this argument and expose Israeli figures to ICC scrutiny.

As the ICC grapples with these complexities, the case of Palestine becomes a litmus test for the court's credibility. Failure to address this issue could tarnish the ICC's standing, portraying it as a tool of powerful nations rather than an impartial tribunal devoted to prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community keenly watches how the ICC navigates the Israel-Palestine conflict, assessing its ability to deliver justice on the global stage.

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