Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki asked prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to launch a full investigation into accusations of Israeli human rights abuses on Palestinian territory, saying the evidence was “insurmountable”.
Maliki submitted a so-called “referral” giving the prosecutor at the Hague-based court the legal basis to move beyond a preliminary inquiry her office started in January 2015. The International Criminal Court has the authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the 123 countries that have signed up to it.
Israel has not joined the court, but because the Palestinians have, Israelis could be targeted for crimes committed on Palestinian lands. The court’s prosecutors launched an initial investigation into allegations against Israel when the Palestinians first joined the court in 2015.
Tuesday’s referral allows that investigation to proceed to the next stage of a full investigation, without waiting for a judge to give approval. Maliki said the request would give prosecutors the authority to investigate alleged crimes starting in 2014 and beyond, including last week’s deaths during protests in Gaza.
“Through judicial referral we want...the office of the prosecutor to open without delay an investigation into all crimes,” he told journalists after meeting with chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “Further delaying justice for Palestinian victims is also tantamount to denial of justice.”
The ICC, which opened in July 2002, is a court of last resort, only stepping in when a state is unwilling or unable to investigate crimes on its territory.