Israel may face Gaza war crimes trial


THE INTERNATIONAL criminal court is urgently considering whether the Palestinian Authority is “enough like a state” for it to bring a case alleging that Israeli troops committed war crimes in the recent assault on Gaza.

The deliberations would potentially open the way to putting Israeli military commanders in the dock at The Hague and set an important precedent for the court over what cases it can hear.

The court’s head of jurisdictions is examining every international agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority to decide whether it behaves – and is regarded by others – as a state, which would open the way for it to become a signatory to the court.

Sources at the ICC say that it is also looking at whether the court can consider war crimes allegations on the basis of the dual nationality of either victims or alleged perpetrators whose second passport is with a country party to the court. A decision is expected within months.

The issue arises because although the ICC potentially has “global jurisdiction”, Israel – despite having signed the Rome statute that founded the court – is not a party. The ICC, which has 108 member states, has not so far recognised Palestine as a sovereign state or as a member.

The latest moves in The Hague come amid mounting international pressure on Israel and a growing recognition in Israeli government circles that it may eventually have to defend itself against war crimes allegations.

A confidential inquiry by the International Committee of the Red Cross into the actions of Israel and Hamas during the conflict is expected to accuse Israel of using “excessive force” – prohibited by the fourth Geneva convention.

The Red Cross has been collecting information for two inquiries, one into the conduct of Israel and a second into Hamas.

In the case of Israel, the Red Cross is expected to highlight three areas: the Israeli Defence Forces’ “choice of weapons in a complex and densely populated environment”; the issue of proportionality, and concerns over the IDF’s lack of distinction between combatants and non-combatants.

Hamas is likely to be challenged over its use of civilian facilities as cover for its fighters, its summary executions and kneecappings of Palestinians during the campaign and its indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas. – (Guardian service)