Following weeks of bloodshed on the border of the Gaza Strip, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has voiced her concern at the deteriorating situation in the besieged enclave. Since March 30, 2018, at least 29 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in what has been termed the “Great Return March”. Israeli authorities deployed 100 snipers on the Gaza border in preparation for the mass demonstration. Reports indicate that approximately 1400 others have been injured, many as a result of being shot with live ammunition and rubber-bullets.
“It is with grave concern that I note the violence and deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip in the context of recent mass demonstrations.
“Violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”), as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities,” Bensouda said in a statement released by the ICC on Sunday. .
She said the on-going conflict in the occupied territories is under review by her office. Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into alleged crimes committed by the Israeli army in January 2015, after Palestine was officially admitted as a member of the court.
“While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office’s scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident.
“I am aware that the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip are planned to continue further. My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.”
While Israel is not a member state of the ICC, if Israeli citizens commit war crimes or crimes against humanity on the territory of an ICC member state they could fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction.
“Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementary. The resort to violence must stop,” Bensouda added.