(February 22, 2021 / Israel Hayom and JNS Staff) A group of former heads of state and high-ranking ministers on Friday sent a letter to newly-appointed International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan, warning him against launching a war-crimes investigation against Israel. Such an investigation, the letter states, would politicize the court and thus harm its standing.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Free Beacon, was initiated by the Friends of Israel Initiative. Signatories include former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper; former Australian Prime Minister John Howard; former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar; former Uruguay President Luis Alberto Lacalle; and former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.
The former leaders explain that they decided to appeal to Khan out of a sense of concern regarding the “unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by the enemies of the Jewish State and supported by numerous international institutions.”
In the letter, the former leaders explain at length that as Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, from which the court derives its authority, and is not a member of the ICC, the court has neither reason nor justification to try Israeli citizens. “This view is strongly supported by the government of the United States of America, as well as the governments of Rome Statute state-parties Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Uganda and leading international law scholars,” it states.
The letter points out that the ICC has a mandate to investigate the “gravest crimes” as a court of last resort when national jurisdictions cannot or will not do so—a situation that does not apply to Israel, which it notes has a “long-established and internationally respected legal system with a track record of investigating such crimes.”
An ICC Pre-Trial Chamber ruled on Feb. 5 that the court had jurisdiction over the Gaza Strip, eastern Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, due to “Palestine” being a state party to the Rome Statute. The court based its opinion on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 67/19, which “[reaffirmed] the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”
“The Chamber found that, regardless of its status under general international law, Palestine’s accession to the Statute followed the correct and ordinary procedure and that the Chamber has no authority to challenge and review the outcome of the accession procedure conducted by the Assembly of States Parties,” the ICC said in a statement.
“Palestine is therefore a State Party to the Rome Statute, and, as a result, a ‘State’ for the purposes of Article 12(2)(a) of the Statute. Palestine has thus agreed to subject itself to the terms of the ICC Rome Statute and has the right to be treated as any other State Party for the matters related to the implementation of the Statute,” the statement continued.
The ruling drew heavy criticism, with the U.S. State Department issuing a formal statement of objection and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the decision “pure anti-Semitism.” Germany and Hungary also objected to the ruling, while Jewish organizations called it a “distortion of international law.”
Khan is due to take over from current ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in approximately two months.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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