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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

International court prosecutor reports progress in Palestinian probe

ICC is a court of last resort that only takes on cases when local courts cannot or will not prosecute

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. AFP
Palestinians run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. AFP

International Criminal Court prosecutors intend to complete "as early as possible" a long-running preliminary investigation into allegations of crimes in the Palestinian territories.

The annual report issued on Wednesday by ICC prosecutors on progress in nine so-called preliminary examinations underway at the court, said that the Palestinian territories probe "has advanced and significantly progressed" analysis of whether legal conditions for opening a case have been met.

Those legal conditions include whether alleged crimes were serious enough to be dealt with at the global tribunal and whether local authorities are investigating and prosecuting the crimes. The ICC is a court of last resort that only takes on cases when local courts cannot or will not prosecute.

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ICC prosecutors have been conducting a preliminary inquiry since 2015 in the Palestinian territories, including Israel's settlement policy, crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict and Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.

Israel is not a member of the court and doesn't accept ICC jurisdiction. But Israeli forces could face charges if they are suspected of committing crimes on Palestinian territories. The court has accepted the "State of Palestine" as a member.

In another high-profile preliminary examination, prosecutors said they expect to finish "in the near future" their assessment of possible cases arising from a probe into alleged crimes by British forces in Iraq, "with a view to reaching a final determination within the best possible timeframe."

The prosecutor's office currently has nine preliminary probes underway. Others focus on Colombia, Guinea, Nigeria, the Philippines, Ukraine, Venezuela and Bangladesh, where prosecutors are looking at alleged crimes committed by Myanmar forces against Rohingya Muslims.

Judges are expected to shortly rule on a request by chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request, made more than a year ago, to open a full-scale investigation into Afghanistan that also would cover alleged crimes in CIA secret detention facilities in Europe.