Ramallah, March 25, 2020—Defense for Children International - Palestine submitted written observations to the International Criminal Court last week urging that Israeli forces be held accountable for war crimes committed against Palestinian children since 2014.
Acting as the legal representative of Palestinian children unlawfully killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and their immediate family members, DCIP submitted legal observations to the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber I on March 16. The three-judge Chamber is tasked with determining whether the Court has jurisdiction over alleged crimes occurring in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. DCIP urged the Chamber to find that the Court has territorial jurisdiction over all territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
“For decades, Israeli forces have enjoyed near-complete impunity for grave breaches of international law against Palestinians, including children,” said Khaled Quzmar, DCIP’s General Director. “While there may be obstacles ahead, the Pre-Trial Chamber I must not preclude Palestinian child victims from seeking justice and accountability at this early stage. The ICC has territorial jurisdiction and the situation of Palestine must urgently proceed to the investigation stage.”
Since 2015, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor has been examining whether there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
In December 2019, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced the preliminary examination had concluded with the determination that a reasonable basis did exist and that an investigation be opened into war crimes.
However, the Prosecutor also requested a jurisdictional ruling from the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I on the scope of the territorial jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court under article 12(2)(a) of the Rome Statute in Palestine.
On January 28, 2020, the Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an order setting the procedure and schedule for the submission of observations on the Prosecutor's request under article 19(3) of the Rome Statute related to the scope of the Court's territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in the State of Palestine. The Pre-Trial Chamber I is expected to make a decision in the coming months.
In the submission, the victims support and reaffirm the legal conclusions detailed in the Prosecution’s request for a ruling on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine, namely that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction extends to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in June 1967, specifically the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza; and this territory has been referred to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” and is delimited by the demarcation line agreed to in the 1949 Armistices, which is known as the ‘Green Line.’
The State of Palestine acceded to the ICC Statute on January 2, 2015, and lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the ICC Statute in January 2015 accepting the jurisdiction of the Court over alleged crimes committed “in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.”
On April 1, 2015, Palestine became the 123rd State Party to the ICC. On May 22, 2018, the State of Palestine referred the situation in Palestine for investigation to the ICC and requested the Prosecutor “to investigate, in accordance with the temporal jurisdiction of the Court, past, ongoing and future crimes within the court's jurisdiction, committed in all parts of the territory of the State of Palestine.”
Israeli forces are rarely held accountable for grave violations against Palestinian children, including unlawful killings and excessive use of force. Since 2000, Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 2,115 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, according to documentation collected by DCIP.