ICC Gives Israel Month to Seek Deferral

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
The International Criminal Court, or ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

The International Criminal Court said Thursday it has sent formal notices to Israel and the Palestinian Authority about its impending investigation into possible war crimes, giving them a month to seek deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations.

Earlier this month, the ICC announced it would investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinians following a request by the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015 after being granted nonmember observer status in the U.N. General Assembly.

Israel has fiercely condemned the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias and saying it has no jurisdiction since the Palestinians do not have a state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens could be subject to arrest abroad if warrants are issued.

The ICC prosecutor’s office confirmed in a written statement to The Associated Press that on March 9 the letters were sent to all of the court’s member states and those states that would normally exercise jurisdiction, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli and Palestinian officials declined to comment.

Israel could respond to the letter by detailing its own efforts to investigate potential crimes and hold its citizens accountable. If the court is satisfied with the process, it could allow it to unfold under periodic ICC supervision, postponing or even cancelling its own investigation.

Israel’s Channel 13 said the Article 18 letter was received last week and that Israel has around three weeks left to respond. It said the National Security Council has discussed the matter without making a decision.