ICC's Chief Prosecutor Warns: We Are Closely Watching Gaza Violence

Fatou Bensouda says anyone 'who incites or engages in acts of violence' is liable to prosecution and ICC 'will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force'

Palestinians evacuate mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, during clashes with Israeli troops at the Israel-Gaza border
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor warned Sunday that her office was closely monitoring protests near the Gaza-Israel border fence and that "any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to [her] Office's scrutiny," following a second weekend of protests that have led to the deaths of over two dozen Palestinians.

"Violence against civilians - in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court"), as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities," Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that alluded to accusations against both the Israeli government and Hamas.

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Israel has been accused of recklessly employing force against unarmed protesters, while Israeli officials have said Hamas is attempting to exploit the mass protests in order to launch attacks.

AP

"Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC's jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity," Bensouda said in the statement.

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"I remind all parties that the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination by my Office," she stated. "While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office's scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident.

"I am aware that the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip are planned to continue further," she added. "My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.

"Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC's jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop."

The ICC's preliminary investigation is the first one involving Gaza since 2014's Operation Protective Edge.

Meanwhile, the Israeli mlitary plans launch an inquiry into the conduct of troops in the protests, to be headed by Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch, head of the General Staff's Doctrine and Training Division.