Israel/Palestine: open letter to UN Security Council calls for international court role

Israeli attacks on Gaza have resumed after a truce failed earlier today © OLIVER WEIKEN / EPA
‘The UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities’ - Salil Shetty
 
Amnesty International has written an open letter to the United Nations Security Council calling on it to refer the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
 
In the past the Security Council has repeatedly failed to take effective action to respond to violations in the region or to hold perpetrators accountable, in large part because of opposition from the USA, which has repeatedly vetoed resolutions critical of Israel. On some occasions the USA has been the sole voice against all other members of the Council. 
 
The three-page letter comes on the day that the United Kingdom assumes the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of August.
 
Amnesty is also calling on both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities to support a Security Council referral, and to take other measures that would allow the ICC to intervene and ensure cooperation with the Court. As part of its call, Amnesty has published an eight-page briefing on the ICC and the region.
 
The organisation is urging Israel to accede to the Rome Statute and issue a declaration accepting ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed since July 2002 to ensure justice for Israeli victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel participated in the negotiations leading to the ICC’s establishment but in 2002 stated that it would not ratify its Statute. 
 
Meanwhile, Amnesty is similarly calling on the PA to submit a declaration accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes under international law committed since 1 July 2002, when the Court was established. Amnesty is also calling on the PA to become a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. In recent days senior Palestinian officials have announced their intention to join the Court. In the past the PA has been pressured by the USA, Israel, Canada, the UK and other EU countries not to take steps to grant ICC jurisdiction, with pressure including threats to withdraw financial assistance to the PA. 
 
Over several decades, Amnesty has collected compelling evidence of war crimes and other crimes under international law committed by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, but perpetrators on both sides continue to enjoy impunity.
 
Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said:
 
“The UN Security Council must not stand by yet again and bear witness to mounting atrocities. It must seize this moment to act decisively for justice.
 
“Ongoing injustice for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity is a shame that hangs heavy on the world. 
 
“An International Criminal Court investigation is crucial to end the pervasive culture of impunity. All sides must push for the Court to investigate such crimes in order to halt the vicious cycle of violations and injustice once and for all.”   
 
Since 8 July, more than 1,400 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing hostilities. According to the UN, the majority of those killed have been Palestinian civilians, including at least 252 children. Three civilians in Israel have been killed by indiscriminate rockets or mortars fired from Gaza, and 61 Israeli soldiers have also been killed. There is mounting evidence that war crimes have been committed by all parties.
 

UK arms to Israel

Over 35,000 people have supported an Amnesty call on the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to stop UK arms transfers to Israel.
 
Amnesty is calling for an immediate suspension of all UK arms transfers to Israel - as well as for pressure to be exerted on those supplying Palestinian groups in Gaza with munitions. Last year the UK sold £6.3m of arms to Israel - in the past, UK-supplied equipment has been used by the Israeli military to commit human rights violations in Gaza.
 

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Open letter the UN
Amnesty briefing: the ICC must investigate war crimes in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories