THE HAGUE, (Reuters) – The Palestinian foreign minister urged the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor on Friday to start an investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes during its offensive in Gaza.
Riyad al-Maliki told reporters after meeting Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo that he was confident the court would act after evaluating the Palestinian Authority’s petition. “Today we have come to deliver to the prosecutor a set of documents that show that Palestine as a state has the validity to represent its case to the court,” Maliki said. “We’ve come to ask for justice and to ask for an investigation into the crimes committed by the Israelis and Israeli army in Gaza recently,” he said. “We expect the prosecution to take actions”.
The Israeli army waged a three-week war in Gaza against Hamas militants at the turn of the year, but Israeli officials deny accusations of war crimes arising from the fighting.
Last week Moreno-Ocampo’s office said it had started a “preliminary analysis” to establish whether Israel committed war crimes, after receiving 210 communications from individuals and non-governmental organisations regarding events in Gaza. The prosecutor has said that the preliminary analysis does not necessarily mean an investigation will be opened.
The ICC can investigate alleged war crimes in the territory of a state party, if the U.N. Security Council — where the United States has veto power — refers a situation to the court or if a non-state party voluntarily accepts the jurisdiction of the court.
Israel and the United States are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Rome Statute creating the court, but that would not prevent the ICC from launching an investigation.
The Palestinian Authority has recognised the jurisdiction of the ICC, in a move designed to allow investigations of alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories.
Maliki, who was also meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen later on Friday, said he had agreed with the ICC prosecutor to maintain contact and “provide him with all the information that is really needed to build a case”.
Some 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians, were killed during Israel’s Gaza offensive, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the territory. Israel put its own dead at 10 soldiers and three civilians.