Palestinians to submit first file to ICC next week

AFP , Thursday 18 Jun 2015

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Reuters)

The Palestinians will next week submit their first file to the International Criminal Court in their bid to open criminal proceedings against Israel, an official said on Thursday.

The move is part of an increased focus on diplomatic manoeuvring and appeals to international bodies by the Palestinians, who have been frustrated by a lack of progress in ending the Israeli occupation and creating their own independent state.

The file is to be handed to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on June 25, and will detail alleged violations of international law by Israel, Palestinian foreign ministry official Ammar Hijazi told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

On April 1, the Palestinians formally joined the ICC with the goal of trying Israeli leaders for alleged abuses during last summer's Israeli offensive on  Gaza Strip, and alleged crimes relating to the occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The file is "only general, it's only statistical", Hijazi said.

"But it certainly draws a grim picture of what Israel is doing and why we think that there are reasonable grounds... for the prosecutor to start (her) investigations."

It does not refer to specific incidents, but the Palestinians will submit such details in future if Bensouda decides to proceed with inquiries, he said.

Bensouda's office has opened a preliminary examination into Palestinian claims, starting from June 2014.

Earlier this year, as the Palestinians were putting their accession to the ICC in motion, president Mahmud Abbas sent documents to the court authorising the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes that took place in Palestinian territories since June 13, 2014.

The Israeli assault last summer killed about 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side.

Bensouda has also said she is weighing opening war crimes investigations into the Palestinians themselves, with groups such as the Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, potentially under the spotlight.

Among the tragic events of Israel's offensive on Gaza was Israel's bombing of UN schools being used as shelters for the displaced.

Israel says it was forced to carry out the strikes because Hamas used them to store weapons or fire rockets at Israel.

The ICC, set up in 2002, is the world's only permanent independent body to try the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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