‘ICC faces credibility test over Israeli war crimes investigation in Gaza’

Reuters / Suhaib Salem
If the International Criminal Court fails to open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestine the UN court may collapse, warns John Dugard, former special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council concerning Palestinian affairs.

Palestinian officials have presented evidence of alleged Israeli atrocities committed during last year's war in Gaza to the International Criminal Court. This follows the publication of a damning UN report on the conflict. Israel denies all the allegations of war crimes against its soldiers.

RT:Is the Palestinian submission and the UN findings enough for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a full investigation?

John Dugard: Certainly there is enough information. The Palestinian Authority has provided much information today, but in addition of course, one must have regard to the Human Rights Council recent fact-finding report. And then there is also the publication of a document by Israeli soldiers, called “Breaking the Silence,” in which they described the manner in which the Gaza War was conducted. There is also the report prepared by the UN Secretary General in respect to attacks on UN premises. So in my view, there is clearly sufficient evidence to enable the prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes committed in Palestine both in respect of the Gaza War and the construction of settlements.

READ MORE: ‘ICC credibility test’: Palestinians submit first war crimes evidence against Israel

RT:The Palestinians risk losing out on $400 million of annual aid from the US which opposes an investigation of Israel. How much pressure does this prospect put on Gaza?

JD: The US is not a member of the ICC, but that doesn’t deter it from exercising influence behind the scenes and there is no doubt that it does bring pressure to bear on member states, particularly in the EU. And it’s an open secret that some member states of the EU are not very enthusiastic about investigating Israel’s crimes. But I think one must bear in mind that the ICC at this stage faces a real credibility test. You know that recently there was an attempt to arrest Sudan President Omar al-Bashir in South Africa and the government allowed President al-Bashir to leave the country despite a court order prohibiting him from leaving South Africa. But that has given rise to a debate in South Africa and in Africa about the question of whether African states should remain in the ICC. And I have no doubt that they are looking to the Palestinian issue to see whether it’s worth their while to remain in the ICC. I think that if the prosecutor of the ICC fails to open an investigation into crimes committed in Palestine, then there is a very real danger that the ICC will fall apart because African states will decide to leave it.

RT:The UN report also accused Hamas of war crimes. Do the Palestinians accept these findings?

READ MORE: 'Flawed & biased': Israel fires back at UN report accusing it of potential war crimes

JD: The Palestinians have been quite clear that they have accepted membership of the ICC in the understanding that their own citizens - members of Hamas and other militant groups - are also exposed to prosecutions. So Palestinians are quite prepared to see an even-handed prosecution of both Israelis and Palestinians and I think that speaks well for the Palestinians in this case.

RT:How will you sum up Israel’s response?

JD: Israel takes the view that it has the most moral army in the world, and that of course its soldiers could not commit war crimes, which of course is disproved by the fact-finding missions to which I have referred. Israel has set up its own investigation, but that has simply whitewashed the whole Israeli involvement in Gaza and it’s quite clear that the Israelis are determined not to prosecute its own soldiers for crimes committed in the Gaza war.

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