The BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights is pleased to confirm formal delivery of its first submission to the International Criminal Court during a recent meeting between representatives of BADIL and the Office of the Prosecutor, which took place at the Hague.
The submission, drafted by BADIL on behalf of Palestinian victims of Israel’s large-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, contains information pertaining to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by high-level Israeli officials in the context of Operation Protective Edge. Specifically, it focuses upon international crimes relating to Israel’s mass forced displacement of Palestinians which, at the height of hostilities, numbered some half a million persons.
According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and ICRC Rule 129 of customary international law, an occupying power is strictly prohibited from forcibly transferring the civilian population of an occupied territory; that is to say, forcibly removing persons from their homes and communities for reasons which are not permitted under international law. This same prohibition is found in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as both a war crime and crime against humanity.
Though forced displacement is often a natural result of armed conflict, in adopting demonstrably unlawful warfare practices which would naturally result in mass forced displacement, and in failing to provide protected humanitarian spaces and assistance for the displaced, Israeli actions during Protective Edge were entirely consistent with the international crime of forcible transfer. On this basis, BADIL provided to the Office of the Prosecutor sufficient information to establish a reasonable basis to believe that Israeli officials oversaw unlawful policies which amounted to forcible transfer as both a war crime and crime against humanity.
As part of its ongoing preliminary examination, triggered in January 2015, the Prosecutor shall consider whether the information received meets the respective requisite thresholds for jurisdiction and admissibility, thus meriting initiation of a formal investigation. The question will also be asked to whether such an investigation would be in the interests of justice.
It is the firmly-held belief of BADIL and other leading human rights organizations that these questions have been comprehensively answered in the affirmative, with BADIL’s submission adding to an already extensive and meticulously-cataloged record of international crimes perpetrated by Israeli citizens not just inside the Gaza Strip, but throughout the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole.
Such engagement is not without risk, and Palestinian human rights defenders who have submitted to the ICC information pertaining to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli citizens have been the recipients of smear campaigns and even threats to their lives. However, it is the position of BADIL and other members of the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council that such threats cannot and must not prevent the documenting of information essential to the promotion of justice for victims of international crimes, and the holding to account of perpetrators.
To this end, such efforts will continue, and the Office of the Prosecutor thanked BADIL for the submission and the testimonies provided, and discussed ways in which BADIL could further assist the Court in the course of its ongoing preliminary examination.
Accordingly, BADIL takes this opportunity to reiterate its full and ongoing support for the work of the Court, whilst a public version of BADIL’s submission is to be made available in the coming weeks.