Will intensify investigations: ICC prosecutor after Israel, Ramallah visit


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Sunday that his office will further intensify its efforts to advance its investigations of possible crimes by Hamas and Israeli forces, after he visited the region for this first time since his appointment.

There have been widespread claims of breaches of international law by Hamas and Israeli forces since war erupted after the deadly October 7 attacks by Hamas and other militants that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel. Around 240 people were taken hostage.

The Hague-based court has been investigating crimes in the Palestinian territories committed by both sides since 2021 but has yet to announce any charges. Israel is not a member state of the court and does not recognise its jurisdiction.

Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a written statement issued after his visit that he witnessed scenes of calculated cruelty at locations of the October 7 attacks. During the visit, he spoke to family members of Israeli victims and called for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages taken by Hamas and other militants.

The attacks against innocent Israeli civilians on 7 October represent some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, crimes which the ICC was established to address, Khan said, adding that he and his prosecutors are working to hold those responsible to account.

He added that he is ready to engage with local prosecutors in line with the principle of complementarity the ICC is a court of last resort set up to prosecute war crimes when local courts cannot or will not take action.

Khan also visited Palestinian officials in Ramallah, including President Mahmoud Abbas, and spoke to Palestinian victims. He said of the war in Gaza that fighting in densely populated areas where fighters are alleged to be unlawfully embedded in the civilian population is inherently complex, but international humanitarian law must still apply and the Israeli military knows the law that must be applied.

He said that Israel has trained lawyers who advise commanders and a robust system intended to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law. Credible allegations of crimes during the current conflict should be the subject of timely, independent examination and investigation.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said on Saturday that the overall death toll in the strip since the October 7 start of the war had surpassed 15,200. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but it said 70 per cent of the dead were women and children. It said more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.

Khan also expressed profound concern at what he called the significant increase in incidents of attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, saying that no Israeli armed with an extreme ideology and a gun can feel they can act with impunity against Palestinian civilians.

He called for an immediate halt to such attacks and said his office is continuing to investigate these incidents with focus and urgency.

Khan said he would seek to work with all actors in the conflict to ensure that when action is taken by my office it is done on the basis of objective, verifiable evidence which can stand scrutiny in the courtroom and ensure that when we do proceed we have a realistic prospect of conviction.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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