[JURIST] Palestinian leaders urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] and its Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Friday to initiate an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes during the recent conflict in Gaza [JURIST news archive]. Palestinian National Authority (PNA) [IMEU backgrounder] Justice Minister Ali Khashan called on the ICC [AP report] to conduct the investigation, expressing concern that alleged war crimes not go unpunished. Last week, Moreno-Ocampo announced that PNA president Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] had petitioned the court to exercise jurisdiction [JURIST report] over possible war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip, but indicated the tribunal would first have to consider whether the PNA qualifies for statehood under international law before addressing the allegations. If the ICC finds that it has jurisdiction, the prosecutor must make a preliminary finding that there is a reasonable basis to believe [ICC backgrounder] that a crime within the ICC's jurisdiction has been committed.
Under the ICC's Rome Statute [text], jurisdiction in a matter can only be transferred to the court when it involves a recognized, signatory state, or by special approval of UN Security Council [official website]. Israel, the country generally considered to possess the Gaza Strip, does not recognize the court. Moreno-Ocampo previously said that the ICC lacked jurisdiction over the alleged crimes, but then indicated last Monday that the court was nonetheless making a "preliminary analysis" [JURIST report] of the situation. Israel has already begun to consider defenses against possible war crimes charges [JURIST report], partly based on accusations [JURIST report] by groups such as Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] that it used white phosphorus [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in a civilian area.