The Ramallah-based Al-Haq human rights organization today condemned as “misleading and inflammatory” the recent publication by the Israeli Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs of a report entitled Legal Assault: How the ICC Has Been Weaponized Against the U.S. and Israel.
The report was authored by a former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and a former secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, and is “the latest effort in a protracted smear campaign directed towards Palestinian civil society by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and other Israeli-aligned non-State bodies, and takes specific aim at Al-Haq, its staff, and its partners in their pursuit of justice, accountability, and an end to impunity for international crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory against the protected Palestinian population,” said an Al-Haq press release.
The report was spurred by recent collective advocacy efforts by Al-Haq, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al Mezan, and Al-Dameer directed towards the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a future criminal investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine, it said.
“It aims to discredit the Prosecutor of the ICC, her Office, Al-Haq and its partners, as well as specific members of their staff, as well as other persons involved in the Situation in the State of Palestine, and the Situation in Afghanistan, before the ICC. In truth, the report contains little by way of content, and instead rehashes earlier smears by the State of Israel and aligned organisations, relying on baseless, spurious allegations and outdated information. In this regard, it is telling that the report contains little information on the Situation before the ICC, and instead opts to focus on tired and disproven claims of improper funding and conduct.”
Al-Haq said that it has faced various forms of attack and smear campaigns since its establishment in 1979. “These have included death threats, in particular against a former member of staff named in the report, incitement to racial hatred, violence, and attacks on its funding, with the ultimate goal of creating a coercive environment and ‘shrinking space’ wherein its work becomes impossible.”
Nonetheless, said the human right organization, such targeting is not ed to Al-Haq, nor to civil society; Professor Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, as well as his predecessors, have been similarly smeared and denied entry to Israel and Palestine outright.
Al-Haq’s engagement with the ICC has included the submission of detailed files of evidence and materials to the Office of the Prosecutor on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Similarly, on 16 March 2020, Al-Haq, along with its partners, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court, arguing that it had full jurisdiction over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and that the Prosecutor was well within her power to open a full investigation therein. These organisations later published a detailed review paper analysing further amici briefs, and Al-Haq published a Q&A on the Situation in the State of Palestine.
Al-Haq stressed that it “will remain steadfast in its support of the Prosecutor, and its call for justice, accountability, and an end to impunity in Palestine, including in the face of an ongoing and systematic smear campaign against the organisation, its partners, staff, and colleagues.”
It welcomed the statement by the European Union’s High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Commission, stressing the independence and impartiality of the ICC proceedings in the Situation in Palestine, and “insisting on the need to protect its neutrality and judicial independence”.
Further, Al-Haq added, the EU’s commitment to “continue its comprehensive assistance — political, financial and technical” to protect the independent functioning of the ICC, is an important safeguard in light of the maligned State party interests of Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, (and also Australia, Uganda and Brazil) in intervening to prevent the Court from investigating Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in the territory of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.