The international criminal court has announced that it has jurisdiction in Palestine, clearing its chief prosecutor to investigate atrocities despite fierce Israeli objections.
Judges said on Friday their decision was based on jurisdictional rules in ICC’s founding documents and does not imply any attempt to determine statehood or legal borders.
“The Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine … extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” judges said.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned the ruling and said the country would “protect our citizens and soldiers in every way from legal persecution”.
Israel is not a member of the court.
ICC has previously announced it intends to open a formal inquiry into war crimes in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in December 2019 there was “a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”
She asked judges to rule on whether the situation fell under the court’s jurisdiction, before a formal investigation would be opened.
In a majority ruling published on Friday, the judges said yes.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh praised the ICC for its ruling.
“This decision [of the ICC] is a victory for justice and humanity, for the values of truth, fairness and freedom, and for the blood of the victims and their families,” PM said.
Al Jazeera quoted Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official as describing the decision as “an important development that contributes in protecting the Palestinian people”