Four Palestinian human rights organisations submitted last week an amicus on territorial jurisdiction of the State of Palestine to the Pre Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in which they called for an immediate investigation into Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In their joint observations submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan), and Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights (Al-Dameer), called on the ICC Prosecutor to proceed directly to a formal investigation into the situation in Palestine.
“In December 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC published a document announcing that it had concluded its Preliminary Investigation stage in the Situation in Palestine. The announcement came in the form of a Request from the Prosecutor, that the Pre-Trial Chamber provide confirmation of the position that ‘the Court’s territorial jurisdiction extends to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel’ since June 1967, ‘namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza’,” they said.
“As international crimes have clearly been committed in the occupied State of Palestine comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, our organisations believe it would have been appropriate for the Prosecutor to proceed directly to a formal investigation, and that the current process was not a necessary one. Once a State becomes party to the Rome Statute, ‘the ICC is automatically entitled to exercise jurisdiction over article 5 crimes committed on its territory. No additional consent or separate assessment is needed’.”
In affirming Palestine’s status as a state, the Palestinian human rights organizations stressed that Palestine has existed as a State prior to the British Mandate started in 1920 and that the State of Palestine has been recognised by 139 member states of the United Nations and accorded a non-member observer State status in the UN General Assembly by Resolution 67/19 of 29 November 2012.
“On the question as to the scope of the territory of Palestine, we recall that the State of Palestine has been categorical in maintaining that its territory is that within the recognised boundaries demarcated by the 1949 Armistice Line known as the Green Line. Together, the territory of the State of Palestine comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, forming ‘a single territorial unit’,” they said, adding, “Our observation further stressed that Israel’s purported annexation of occupied East Jerusalem is illegal.”
The human rights organizations mentioned several cases in which “foreign occupation of territory of a State party was found to be no bar to the exercise and application of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction’ by a Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC.”
In conclusion, said the Palestinian human rights organisations, “there is a compelling and urgent need for the opening of a formal investigation into the Situation in Palestine. Should the Pre-Trial Chamber find it appropriate to provide an answer to the Prosecutor’s question then we would conclude that the answer to the questions be 1) that the territory of the State of Palestine is that deed by the Green Line, and 2) that the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction over the Situation in Palestine is interpreted in line with international practice such as the human rights treaty bodies, to recognise the State of Palestine’s territorial jurisdiction over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”