International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official website] called [press release] Sunday for an end to the violence that has recently taken place in the Gaza Strip and raised the possibility of ICC prosecutions against Israel and Hamas.
In her statement, Bensouda cautioned both sides about the “deteriorating situation” that has engulfed the region:
Since 30 March 2018, at least 27 Palestinians have been reportedly killed by the Israeli Defence Forces, with over a thousand more injured, many, as a result of shootings using live ammunition and rubber-bullets. Violence against civilians—in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza—could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute [materials, PDF] of the [ICC], as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities. … Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop.
Bensouda reminded both parties that her office is in the midst of a preliminary investigation into allegations of war crimes [JURIST report], which has been ongoing since 2015 when Palestine was officially admitted as a member of the court. While Israel is not a member of the court, Israeli citizens who commit war-crimes or crimes against humanity on the territory of a member could fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Unrest in the region significantly escalated last week [JURIST report] when Israeli defense forces shot and killed a number of Palestinians, including a journalist, protesting Israel’s continued military presence in the occupied territories. Israel has defended it’s actions, claiming that the protests are merely a smokescreen through which attempts to breach the boarder fence are made and that only ‘instigators’ trying to carry out attacks have been fired at. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel and many Western states, has called for protests to continue until May 15th, in commemoration of the Palestinians’ forced migration resulting from Israel’s creation in 1948. Hamas has retained control over the Gaza Strip since ousting then-President Mohammed Abbas in 2007 and has fought three separate wars with Israel since 2009, the most recent of which prompted the ICC to launch its preliminary investigation.