A Dutch NGO has released an urgent appeal for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take action on Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, in protest of what the group called the court’s “passive” approach.
The Rights Forum, an organization “committed to a fair and sustainable Dutch and European policy on the Palestine/Israel issue,” announced earlier this week that it was delivering its appeal with the support of 185 organizations from 25 countries.
“Without further delay, investigate possible war crimes committed in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory,” the group said in their appeal, which they delivered to Chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague on Tuesday.
The date coincided with international Human Rights Day — the day the group was founded a decade ago.
The main issue being taken on by the group is the ICC’s five year delay on launching an official full-scale investigation into the situation in Palestine and whether possible war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in the occupied territory.
“The investigation should have led to a conclusion long ago,” The Rights Forum said. “The delay is not only inexplicable, it is also irresponsible. Absent an official investigation, Israel has been allowed to continue carrying out crimes with impunity.”
In their appeal, the group accuses the ICC of failing to protect Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression, thus contributing to the “culture of impunity” surrounding Israeli crimes in occupied Palestinian territory.
Citing the Rome Statute, which defines the colonization of occupied territory as a war crime, the group criticized the inaction of the ICC and Bensouda on the continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements across the territory.
“By endlessly postponing the initiation of investigations, the Criminal Court undermines its own integrity and thereby confidence in a functioning international legal order,” the group said.
Highlighting the case of the deadly 2010 Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, or Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the group deplored Bensouda for her refusal to open an investigation into the incident, which resulted in the death of nine activists.
Two weeks ago, Bensouda refused to open an investigation into the matter for the third time, saying “there is no potential case arising from this situation that is sufficiently grave, to reconsider a case that she had repeatedly sought to close due to lack of gravity.”
“As the preliminary investigation drags on, the crimes continue. The Israeli colonization of occupied lands – a war crime under the Rome Statute – comes with the systemic violation and abuse of the human rights of millions of Palestinians,” the appeal to Bensouda read.
Among the signatories of the appeal were 30 human rights organizations from Palestine, as well as Dutch, French, American, Danish, Canadian, Australian, and Israeli organizations, among others.
According to the group, a number of Israeli groups voiced their support for the appeal, but did not include their names among the signatories for fear of retribution in Israel.
Since December 10, when the appeal was launched, the group said another 15 organizations have signed on, bringing the number to 200 signatories.
“The unparalleled pressure forces Bensouda and the Criminal Court to reflect and act,” The Rights Group said. “They cannot afford to let the Court continue to run the situation in Palestine for longer, thereby jeopardizing the citizen’s own legitimacy and confidence in the international legal order.”