A demand from the Palestinians for an immediate investigation into alleged Israeli “crimes” in Gaza at the International Criminal Court was turned aside by its chief prosecutor on Tuesday, who said in response that the court would follow its own agenda.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the “preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course,” adding that she must consider “issues of jurisdiction, admissibility, and the interests of justice” in deciding whether to open such an investigation.
Bensouda has been conducting a preliminary probe since January 2015 to establish whether she should open a full investigation.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki submitted a so-called “referral,” a maneuver aimed at prodding the prosecutor to move beyond the preliminary stage.
But Bensouda made it clear that she would not be rushed.
“A referral … does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation,” she said in a statement. “There should be no doubt that in this and any other situation currently before my office, I will always take the decision warranted by my mandate,” a reference to the Rome Statute.
According to at least one expert opinion, the Palestinians may not be so easily put off. Harvard legal expert Alex Whiting, a former ICC prosecutor, said on Twitter that the referral “has a real effect … it is much harder for the office of the prosecutor to stay in the preliminary investigation phase for years.”
Earlier in the day, Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the PA for “a cynical move that is not legally valid. The PA continues to abuse the tribunal for political purposes, rather than to promote political negotiations.”