A number of UN experts have called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Karim Khan, to expedite his investigation into the Occupied Palestinian territories.
The letter is signed by 32 UN experts it titled ‘Investigating the situation in the State of Palestine’. The 32 are led by Francesca Albanese, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
“We write to share our concern about the spread of impunity and the continuous deterioration in the case of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, due to actions that may amount to widespread and systematic violations of international law by various actors”, the letter reads.
“During the previous years, and in the context of our mandates, we have all repeatedly condemned such abuses, many of which may amount to prosecutable offenses under the Rome Statute and the Court’s jurisdiction”, the letter continues.
The letter applauded the commencement on 3 March, 2021, of the prosecutor’s investigation of the situation in the State of Palestine, on the grounds that alleged war crimes have been committed or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
The decision is “a milestone in the efforts of the international community to achieve justice in the region”, wrote the 32 experts.
“It is crucial that the court uphold the responsibilities entrusted to it, and that it be carried out through follow-up procedures, strengthening investigations and advancing justice for all victims of heinous crimes, including through a gender perspective”, the letter continues.
The letter addresses the Court’s top prosecutor, Khan, saying “your stated intention to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2023 is a decisive step in this direction, and we hope that your investigative mission will be completed as quickly as possible.”
And, the letter continues, “since the court opened the investigation, many new violations have been committed, which allegedly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. This includes actions that may amount to deliberate indiscriminate attacks against civilians and willful killings, including of human rights defenders and media workers.”
The experts also mentioned numerous other possible violations, including arbitrary detention, the destruction of civilian property, and instances of forced displacement, including of 1,200 residents, including 500 children, in Masafer Yatta in the occupied West Bank.
The experts called on Khan to allocate more resources to investigate the situation in the State of Palestine, including possible crimes committed by private actors, and to make it easier for victims and communities to communicate with ICC investigators.
The letter author’s express their concern that civil society organisations, “including those working to promote accountability and justice through ICC investigations”, were suffering “criminalization and increasing harassment” at the hands of Israel.
The letter specifically mentioned the Israeli army’s raids of six Palestinian civil society organisations in Ramallah in August 20222, “which may constitute a serious violation of the administration of justice under the Rome Statute.”
The authors added that, “with the legal tools at our disposal, we have a common institutional and moral duty to address these downward spirals, to ensure that past atrocities do not go unpunished and to prevent new crimes from being committed.”
The 32 experts concluded their appeal to the ICC’s prosecutor by saying, “we are at your disposal for any specific support you may need in matters relating to our mandate, and we pledge to support the Court’s efforts to hold all attackers of international crimes accountable and to put an end to impunity.”