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Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC finds the Court has jurisdiction to investigate the situation in Palestine

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association welcomes the judgment published by the International Criminal Court on Friday.

Posted on 09 February 2021

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association welcomes the judgment published by the International Criminal Court on Friday. The pre-trial chamber was asked by the Office for the Prosecutor to rule on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine. The Prosecutor was of the view that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction extends to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in June 1967, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The pre-trial chamber received a wide range of submissions on the subject from 43 amici curia and 11 groups of victims, including a group of victims supported by Addameer.

Supported by lawyers from Leigh Day together with Steven Powles QC and Tayyiba Bajwa of Doughty Street Chambers, Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, and Catherine Drummond of Cambridge University, Addameer filed submissions on behalf of three Palestinians who were arrested at the age of 17 and unlawfully deported from occupied Palestinian territory into Israel, in violation of Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute. All three are victims of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC on that basis. They also assert that they are the victims of the crimes of wilful deprivation of the right to a fair trial, and of inhuman treatment and outrages on their personal dignity. On behalf of these victims, Addameer successfully argued that Palestine is a State for the purposes of the Rome Statute (and, in any event, a State under customary international law) and that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes committed in its territory, such territorial jurisdiction extending to all those territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Some participants not in support of the position of the Prosecutor argued the Request was political rather than legal in nature and that by the court ruling on the question of jurisdiction it would be making a political decision potentially affecting its own legitimacy. However, the court noted that by the very nature of the core crimes under the Rome Statute, the facts and situations brought before the court arise from controversial contexts where political issues are often sensitive. It stated that the judiciary cannot retreat when it is confronted with facts which might have arisen from political disputes, but which also trigger legal and juridical issues. The court went on to say that the fact that its decision on the Prosecutor’s Request might entail political consequences shall not prevent the chamber from exercising its mandate.

The pre-trial chamber concluded its ruling by finding that Palestine is a State Party to the Rome Statute and that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

A full copy of the pre-trial chamber’s decision can be found here. A copy of the submissions filed by Addameer can be found here.

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Waleed Sheik

Waleed Sheikh

Waleed Sheikh is an associate solicitor in the human rights department.