Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Palestinian Civilians in Revolt: The ICC and Al Aqsa

Julie Webb-Pullman

Source: TeleSUR


Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Mohammad Abu Ghannam during his funeral in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of A-tur July 21, 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Israeli authorities routinely violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, transferring nearly 60 percent of Palestinian child detainees from occupied territory to prisons inside Israel.


The people of Palestine have had enough: enough of Israeli occupation, enough of the Palestinian Authority’s complicity, and enough of the international community’s inaction.

Since the blatant breach of the principle of self-determination in 1948, which saw the establishment of the ‘state of Israel’ on colonized Palestinian land, Palestinians have been subjected to relentless and progressive genocide and aggression: forced relocation, illegal Israeli settlements, theft of natural resources such as water and gas fields, collective punishment in the form of a suffocating siege of Gaza, and three brutal military offensives within six years that killed thousands of Palestinians, injured tens of thousands more, and destroyed twenties of thousands of homes.

And that was just during declared military offensives – the killing and injuring of Palestinians by Israeli authorities and citizens is a daily occurrence. The United Nations reports that between 01 January and 31 October 2016, Israeli security forces killed at least 94 Palestinians and injured more than 3,200: an average of 9 casualties per day.

All in full view of the United Nations.

All reported in the international media.

All known to the world public.

And all with complete impunity.

The Palestinian Authority has done little. Despite ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in December 2014, and making a retroactive declaration until June 2014 for the Court to have jurisdiction over the Israeli military aggression in Gaza during the summer of 2014, it has failed to make a state complaint to the ICC.

And although the Prosecutor subsequently opened a ‘preliminary examination’ on Palestine, this stalled.

Due to the lack of political will on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which has not filed an ICC complaint and does not support the procedure, Palestinians are taking matters into their own hands.

me at press conference

Last Wednesday, 438 individuals and 45 civil society organisations lodged a complaint with the ICC demanding the Prosecutor of the ICC move the preliminary examination into a full investigation.

“All the prosecutor of the ICC needs to open a full investigation is that there is a reasonable basis for believing that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed,” insisted one of the complainants in the legal action, Basman AlAshi, Chief Executive of Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital.

“The destruction of Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, a protected place under the Geneva Convention, provides that basis. So do the attacks on Al Aqsa, Durrah and Beit Hanoun Hospitals,” he said.

The lawyer submitting the complaint to the ICC, Maître Gilles Devers, agrees.

“It is two years since Palestine has been under preliminary examination. In Gaza, we think two years is too long,” he said before heading to the court.

Child Prisoners

Two years is a significant chunk of the lifetime of the ~700 Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel every year. Dr Mariam Abu Daqqa, President of a Gaza-based women prisoners’ support organization, laments that these children, along with women detainees, are not accorded the most minimum standards demanded by international instruments.

Israeli authorities routinely violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, transferring nearly 60 percent of these Palestinian child detainees from occupied territory to prisons inside Israel, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for their families to visit them.

They are also frequently subjected to torture. A Defence for Children International – Palestine report in 2016 recorded that many children were threatened with physical violence, long-term imprisonment, solitary confinement, and sexual assault during interrogation by Israeli authorities.

“Interrogators used position abuse, threats, and isolation to coerce confessions from some of these children,” states the Report, noting that more than 90 percent of children held in solitary confinement provided a confession.

Mahmoud Afana, one of the 40 Gazan lawyers working on the ICC complaint, notes that these breaches of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Riyadh Guidelines, the Havana Rules and the Bangkok Rules  are but a few of the Palestinian rights being breached daily.

Afana describes the ten-year siege of Gaza as collective punishment which constitutes “… a genocidal humanitarian crisis happening in full view of the world.”

Siege of Gaza

Complainants include a wide range of unions whose members have suffered from the crippling siege: teachers who cannot get books or scientific equipment for their students; tradespeople who cannot get raw materials or export what they would produce if they could; farmers deprived of fertilisers and the possibility to export their produce; fishermen who cannot go further than 3 miles from the now heavily-polluted shore; doctors who cannot study abroad let alone obtain the medicines and equipment essential to treat their dying patients; committees striving to rebuild destroyed mosques while construction materials are prevented from entering; and hundreds of ordinary people whose lives have been shattered by the deaths and injuries to loved ones in 2014, or dreams of a future destroyed by their inability to travel for study or life-saving treatment.

Rana Shubeir told TeleSur that they are sick of living a life of fear: fear of being denied travel for study or medical treatment, fear of another aggression, fear of never finding a job in “this black hole of deprivation and suffering.”

“We only want to enjoy the basic human rights which are guaranteed under international and humanitarian law. We want to live knowing that the future of our children will be as bright as their innocent smiles. The only way this can be achieved is through the application of justice – and that is all we ask from the ICC – apply the rules, and open a full investigation into Palestine,” she said.

Only the beginning: Al Aqsa erupts

French lawyer Gilles Devers emphasised that the submission of Wednesday’s complaint to the ICC is just the beginning of what is expected to be a long struggle.  

“We call for the strengthening of this legal action; it must be intensified. Our strength is the determination of the Palestinian people to defend their rights.”

The group also hopes to persuade the ICC to open a full investigation “as a matter of urgency” into the escalating situation in East Jerusalem, he said.

In the past ten days Israeli authorities have imposed severe restrictions on and around Al Aqsa Mosque, the third most holy site in Islam, and violently attacked Palestinians protesting their right to pray there unhampered.

The closure of the mosque on Friday 14 July, and its reopening days later with enhanced repressive security measures, has enraged both Palestinians and international Muslims alike.

Palestinians have refused to pray there while the measures, such as metal detectors and restricted access, remain in place, while Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, The Saudi Council of Ministers, and the Doha-based International Union of Muslim scholars also denounced the Israeli measures.

“The recurrent Israeli aggressions…are part of an Israeli scheme to target the sacred sites after the usurpation of the land, in its attempt to continue changing the geographic and demographic status quo in Jerusalem,” the Lebanese President’s statement read.

Tensions erupted yesterday, and three Palestinians and three Israelis were killed, while many hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the violent and disproportionate Israeli response to Palestinian resistance to the latest attacks on their dignity and self-determination.

Palestinian civil society’s plea to the ICC is perhaps one of a few opportunities to defuse the imminent explosion.

 As Gilles Devers concluded:

“Justice must be the response to violence.”

The alternative is too bloody to contemplate.

The Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crime of aggression.

The action, prepared by 40 Palestinians lawyers in Gaza and filed with the ICC by Mr Devers, concerns three crimes:
– the blockade of Gaza
– the Israeli aggression in the summer of 2014
– the Israeli settlement of Palestine.

3 responses

  1. Stan Squires

    I am from Vancouver,Canada and I wanted to say that the world supports the Palestinians fighting against Israeli Occupation.There can be no peace with Israeli Occupation.The Israeli Soldiers and Israeli Settlers are Savages and have been condemned throughout the world.
    The ICC needs to condemn Israel for attacking the Al-Aqsa Mosque and there are many other crimes against the Palestinian People committed by Israel that needs to be brought before the ICC.The ICC should be charging the Israeli Gov’t with all these crimes against the Palestinian People. What are they waiting for?The majority of people in the world supports the Palestinian People and it is time for the ICC to lay charges against the Israeli Gov’t for war Crimes,Genocide in Gaza and many other crimes against the Palestinian People.

    July 23, 2017 at 9:24 pm

  2. Kia ora Julie. It is great to see you posting again and I thank you for your work, but I feel I must be critical here. I would like to be wrong in this, but I cannot help thinking that the idea of Palestinians taking a case to the ICC is bizarrely deluded. The ICC is clearly not what people think it is. It has absolutely no history of doing anything except prosecuting opponents of US hegemony, sometimes at the direct behest of US officials (despite the fact that the the US has not ratified the Rome Statute and overtly refuses to recognise ICC jurisdiction over US Americans).
    The ICC has a very dubious history, almost exclusively prosecuting sub-Saharan Africans under problematic circumstances, in unreasonably lengthy proceedings and with a poor record of convictions. No defendant yet has been accused of a crime as grave as that for which Tony Blair could be prosecuted, yet the ICC (despite overwhelming prima facie evidence) has not pursued a case against him. The thin pretext for this is that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the crimes of aggression before 2010 even though no one argues that aggression was not a crime prior to 2010 and there is no reason at all to exclude retrospective prosecution (other than the fact that it would be politically undesirable).
    Aside from the rhetoric of overpaid self-important twats who consider themselves God’s gift to human rights, what actual evidence from the history of the ICC – its actions rather than its words – that would leave anyone in their right mind believing that it will ever act against Israeli officials? Bear in mind that it is a criminal court that prosecutes individuals, not the ICJ which rules on the actions of states. Not only do I fear that those who pursue action in the ICC are wasting their time, but it is a gift to Israel, which will use it to bolster its constant refrain of persecution by a hostile anti-Semitic and hypocritical international human rights apparatus.
    It is not constructive to indulge mindless wishful thinking. What is the end goal of pursuing a case in the ICC? Who exactly do they expect to be charged and what does it achieve to charge this person or persons? Do they really think that Israel is going to extradite people to the Hague?
    I don’t want to criticise people who mean well by their actions, but I can’t just sit silently while people betray themselves and their own beliefs. I have been raising these issues since 2014 and no one seems to be able to explain why acting through the ICC is anything but foolish and counterproductive. If I am wrong, please explain why. Otherwise I beg you and others to desist from presenting the ICC as a source of hope for progress or justice. It is destructive false hope.

    July 24, 2017 at 4:03 am

    • The crime of aggression only came under the mandate of the Rome Statute in 2017. Although you are correct that Israel is unlikely to ever extradite anyone to the Hague, there is still an effect in that it prevents Israeli war criminals traveling to any other country, as that country must hand them over if they are a signatory to the Rome Statute – and the majority of countries Israeli war criminals want to travel to are signatories to the Rome Statute so at worst, it effectively imprisons them in Israel – and at best they would stand trial in The Hague and be held fully accountable. The ICC is one of the tools available to seek justice for Palestine – and we must use EVERY tool – or what? Just give up? Warfare and lawfare needs must go hand in hand. Do you say the same about BDS? Every ‘army’ uses more than one type of weapon – and the Palestinian resistance is no different. We must fight on every front.

      April 29, 2018 at 8:59 am

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