THE HAGUE: The Palestinian foreign minister arrived at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to call on prosecutors there to open an immediate investigation into Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories.
According to a Palestinian statement, the so-called “referral” that Riad Malki is handing to the court’s prosecutors underscores “that there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes to warrant an immediate investigation.”
Malki was accompanied by a police escort and ushered into the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, where he was met with staffers at the door. He did not say anything to reporters upon entering.
The ICC has been conducting a preliminary probe since 2015 into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy and crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Tuesday’s referral could speed up a decision on whether to open a full-blown investigation that could ultimately lead to the indictment of high-ranking Israelis.
“The Referral covers past, present, and future Israeli actions to promote, expand, and entrench the settlement regime, perpetrated by, or with the assistance of, the government of Israel or its agents and accomplices in the occupied territory of the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem,” the Palestinian statement said.
The move comes with Israeli-Palestinian relations at their lowest point in years in the aftermath of the U.S.
Embassy move to Jerusalem and bloodshed on the Gaza border, where Israeli fire has killed dozens of protesters.
Israel has said it was defending its border and accuses Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group of endangering civilians by using the protests as cover to try to carry out attacks.
Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens can be charged by the court if they are suspected of committing crimes on the territory or against a national of a country that is a member. The ICC has recognized “Palestine” as a member state.
While the ICC can indict suspects, it has no police force and has to rely on cooperation from member states to enforce arrest warrants.—AP