The ICC’s Mandate in Israel and Gaza: Navigating Challenges

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Investigation Mandate and Obstacles

The International Criminal Court (ICC) holds a pivotal role in addressing potential war crimes in Israel and Gaza, with Prosecutor Karim Khan leading efforts to ensure justice. The ICC’s jurisdiction extension to Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem in 2021 laid the foundation for a formal investigation into the persistent violence since 2014. Khan, committed to wielding the law’s force, faces challenges from attempts to delegitimize his mandate, especially from Israel, which is not an ICC member state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denouncing the investigation as anti-Semitic, seeks to undermine the court’s legitimacy, a sentiment echoed by the U.S.

European Union’s Divergent Stance

While the European Union (EU) officially supports the ICC, internal divisions among member states complicate its stance on the Israelo-Palestinian conflict. Despite being ICC state parties, five EU nations – Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Lithuania – question the court’s jurisdiction over Palestine, citing concerns over politicization and the absence of Palestinian statehood. This dissent within the EU could pose challenges, potentially enabling challenges to the ICC’s jurisdiction over Palestine.

Financial and Operational Challenges

Operational challenges, such as states’ potential vetoes, could impede investigations, leaving the ICC without the necessary resources. The court relies on state cooperation for evidence collection and the custody of accused persons. Anthony Dworkin from the European Council on Foreign Relations notes that conflicting views among EU countries might impact rhetorical backing, but operational cooperation remains mandatory. Financial support from major players becomes crucial for successful investigations, and Belgium has already contributed €5 million to boost the ICC’s efforts in investigating the Israel-Hamas conflict.

EU’s Relationship with the ICC

While EU member states express varied views, Brussels, as a collective entity, has not opposed the ICC’s jurisdiction over Palestine. A spokesperson for the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs affirmed ongoing support for the ICC, emphasizing the prosecutor’s duty to investigate alleged crimes. Despite occasional tests, such as Prosecutor Khan criticizing EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s proposal for a UN-backed tribunal for war crimes in Ukraine, the EU remains aligned with the ICC’s efforts in the Israelo-Palestinian context.

Resistance from Western Allies

The resistance to the ICC’s jurisdiction is not limited to Israel; the United States and the United Kingdom, key Western allies, pose additional challenges. The U.S., not an ICC member, rejects the court’s jurisdiction in non-state parties. While the Biden administration assists the ICC in Ukraine, it maintains its longstanding position on the Palestine probe. The UK, despite being an ICC member, opposed the court’s jurisdiction over Palestine in 2021, citing concerns about exacerbating tensions. Western powers’ disapproval contrasts with some Global South countries supporting the ICC’s involvement.

Future Prospects

The ICC’s ability to access Israel and Gaza remains a critical question. European countries, by advocating for access, could play a significant role. Israel’s stance, critical to the investigation, may influence the course of action. As the ICC navigates political challenges, Prosecutor Khan’s determination to conduct an investigation, even in the face of opposition, reflects the ongoing complexities surrounding justice-seeking efforts in the Israelo-Palestinian conflict.

SOURCE: Ref Image from The Gaurdian

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