by Ariel Kahana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Israeli officials voiced outrage Tuesday over a recent decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague to actively seek alleged victims of Israeli crimes against Palestinians, arguing that this action indicates "strong anti-Israel policy."
Three ICC judges urge "victims of the situation in Palestine" to come forward, facilitate investigation against Israel
Jerusalem has reportedly filed a formal protest with the ICC for launching a campaign that actively urges the "victims of the situation in Palestine" to seek legal action against the Jewish state.
This highly unusual step casts doubt on the court's ability to be impartial when dealing with issues pertaining to Israel, Jerusalem officials said.
In a press release issued in July, three ICC judges – Péter Kovács, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, and Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou – urged alleged victims to step forward by Dec. 14.
The three, members of the pretrial chamber dealing with Palestinian allegations of Israeli war crimes, ordered the ICC's Registry "to establish, as soon as practicable, a system of public information and outreach activities for the benefit of the victims and affected communities in the situation in Palestine."
The three said they sought to establish "a continuous system of interaction between the court and victims, residing within or outside of Palestine."
"Victims play an important role in the court's work," they said. "Victims have the right to be heard and considered, at stages of the proceedings determined to be appropriate, and the court has the duty to effectively enable them to exercise this right."
This move, which Israeli officials, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have deemed "very disturbing," came despite the fact that ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has yet to decide whether the court has any jurisdiction over matters related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute from which the ICC derives its power. The Palestinian Authority, which joined the ICC in April 2015, has not been recognized by the United Nations as a state, meaning the ICC cannot exercise its jurisdiction over the regional conflict.
In a stern message, Israel noted that the move was unacceptable and that the court did not have the authority to implement it since Bensouda has yet to rule on whether there is a basis to investigate Palestinian claims of war crimes.
Israel also warned that the move severely undermined the international judicial institution's ability to maintain neutrality.
"The judges are completely ignoring the fact that the court lacks the jurisdiction to rule on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their eagerness to launch such an unusual appeal casts serious doubts over the court's ability to fairly confront any matter relating to Israel," a senior Israeli legal official told the Hadashot news edition on Tuesday.
Channel 10 News quoted a senior Israeli diplomat as saying the government was "shocked" to learn of the move.
He said that in private conversations in July, top Jerusalem officials described the move as "unprecedented," saying it was practically unheard of for the pretrial chamber to actively reach out to victims in a case that has not yet advanced to the stage of an investigation.
The move has led Israeli officials to lambaste the ICC for being as biased against Israel as the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Ariel Kahana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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