(June 15, 2021 / JNS) Fatou Bensouda, the outgoing chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, said on Monday that the court’s relationship with the United States is undergoing a “reset,” reported the Associated Press.
Referring to the Biden administration’s decision in April to lift sanctions imposed under former President Donald Trump, Bensouda noted that “we are at a more helpful place now.”
Last June, the Trump administration, which had already imposed a travel ban on Bensouda in March 2019 and froze her U.S.-based assets 18 months later, authorized sanctions against ICC officials investigating alleged Israeli and U.S. war crimes, the latter for its actions in Afghanistan.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration preferred to pursue diplomacy over sanctions in dealing with the ICC’s investigations.
Nevertheless, Bensouda also noted that her office isn’t “ignoring anything” related to the 11-day conflict last month between Israel and Hamas, which began with the Gaza-based terror organization launching rockets towards Israeli population centers.
Asked, for example, whether Israel had provided evidence for its claim that the May 15 airstrike on a 12-story building in Gaza City, which housed local bureaus of AP and Al Jazeera, contained military assets belonging to Hamas’s military intelligence division, she said: “Definitely we have not had anything come from Israel about this.”
The Israel Defense Forces said of the action, which was widely criticized by the international press, that it had provided “advance warning to civilians in the building and allowed sufficient time for them to evacuate the site.” No injuries were reported when the building was demolished.
During a meeting last week with senior AP staff, Israeli Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan explained that Hamas had been using the Gaza media tower to jam Iron Dome air-defense systems in Israel.
Bensouda’s AP interview comes three months after her announcement in March that the ICC would probe possible Israeli “war crimes” committed during “Operation Protective Edge” in the summer of 2014, saying that “a reasonable basis exists to commence an investigation.”
Israel, which has flatly denied having committed war crimes, rejected the claim of ICC jurisdiction over the matter.
Bensouda will be replaced by British criminal lawyer and human-rights expert Karim Khan, who is currently serving as assistant secretary-general of the United Nations. He is slated to take office on June 16.
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