ICC Delegation Arrives in Israel for Five-day 'Educational Visit', Won't Conduct Evidence Collection

Amid background of ongoing preliminary examination into 2014 Gaza war and Israeli settlement construction, ICC delegation stresses visit is aimed at 'promoting better understanding' of its work.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

A delegation of representatives from the International Criminal Court in The Hague arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a five-day visit. Representatives of chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda arrived in Israel amid the background of ongoing preliminary examinations into Palestinian complaints surrounding the 2014 Gaza war and Israeli settlement construction.

However, a statement issued by the ICC said that prosecutors "will not engage in evidence collection in relation to any alleged crimes" or "assess the adequacy of the respective legal systems to deal with crimes that fall within ICC jurisdiction."

Israel's intention to permit representatives of the prosecution of the International Criminal Court to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority was first published in Haaretz last month. The possibility of a visit has been discussed for more than a year, but an official request was submitted last month, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered and approved.

The ICC prosecutor issued a statement explaining that the visit's purpose is to enhance Israeli and Palestinian understanding of the court's duties. "The purpose of this visit will be to undertake outreach and education activities with a view to raising awareness about the ICC and in particular, about the work of the Office [and] to address any misperceptions about the ICC and to explain the preliminary examination process," the statement read.

According to a statement, the delegation will travel to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah and will hold meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials at the working levels. The delegation will also participate in two events at academic institutions and engage in several media interviews. The delegation will additionally meet with several UN agencies operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The statement stressed that the preliminary examination is ongoing according to schedule and the visit is not linked to any findings related to the examination.

"This process involves an analysis of a number of complex legal issues and a review of large volumes of documents," the statement read. "It is a thorough process during which the Office must be given the necessary space and time to conduct its activities, which it does in all instances independently and impartially."

Haaretz reported exclusively in July 2015 that Israel had decided to reverse its previous policy and open talks with the ICC prosecutor over the preliminary examination of the Gaza War and the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"This does not mean we are cooperating with the preliminary examination the ICC is conducting at the Palestinian request," said the Israeli official, who asked to remain anonymous due to the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.

"The Israeli position, like the position of other countries around the world, is that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has no authority to hear the Palestinian request since Palestine is not a country and because the Israeli judicial system is independent and can handle complaints on the matter of alleged war crimes," he added.

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