PCHR Calls Upon Prosecutor of  International Criminal Court to Conduct Comprehensive International Investigation into the Israeli Crimes

Ref: 89/2018

Date: 24 August 2018

Time: 06:30 GMT

On 15 August 2018, the Israeli Military Prosecution decided to close the file investigation related to the killing of dozens of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in an intensive bombardment, which indiscriminately targeted civilian areas in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli bombardment was carried out on 01 August 2014, during the latest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, and became known as “Black Friday”.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) affirms that the Israeli decision is a new affirmation that the Israeli justice system does not provide any justice to the Palestinians, constitutes a legal cover for the Israeli crimes and grants immunity to war criminals. PCHR calls upon that the Prosecutor of  the International Criminal Court to conduct comprehensive international investigation into the crimes committed by the Israeli forces in occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

The Israeli prosecution justified its decision in its report, which included declaring the closure of  other cases, that “the Israeli military prosecutor has concluded that the policy of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) regarding the use of firepower during the fighting, whether through artillery, mortars and airstrikes, came in accordance with Israeli law and the requirements of international law.”

The prosecution’s decision added that ” all attacks were conducted to achieve a clear and legitimate military objective, after an appropriate estimation, to make sure that the accidental losses expected of the attack will not be exaggerated compared to the military advantage expected to be achieved from the attack.”

This is refuted by the facts on the ground, as the legal investigations conducted by PCHR and human rights organizations prove that the Israeli forces launched retaliatory, intensively and indiscriminately attacks, including artillery shelling and airstrikes, , for 4 days, east of Rafah. As a result, dozens of civilians were killed and many others were wounded while hundreds houses and civilian property sustained material damage. Moreover, the Israeli bombardment targeted a shelter belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and health facilities.

Most of the casualties occurred on the first day of August, following a clash between the Israeli occupation forces and resistance fighters, which resulted in the killing of 2 Israeli soldiers and arresting another one, in addition to the killing of a person belonging to the Palestinian resistance groups.

This was clarified by universal human rights organizations, most notably the Amnesty International, which mentioned in their report that Israeli forces committed war crimes during the operation in Rafah. The report addressed that : “There is a large number of evidences that can’t be ignored, proving that the Israeli forces committed disproportionate and random attacks.. and in some cases, indicators show that Israeli forces directly opened fire at civilians, causing their death and attacked those fleeing for fear of their lives.”  

It should be noted that the State of Palestine had deposited its instrument of accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the beginning of 2005, and it was accompanied with an announcement according to Article (12), paragraph (3) of The Rome Statute, establishing the court, allows to open an investigation into all international crimes committed in the oPt since June 2014. Following that, the Prosecutor decided to open a preliminary investigation in January 2015 to reveal the facts. These preliminary investigations are still ongoing despite the fact that more than three and a half years have passed since the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.

PCHR confirms that this decision along with pervious similar decisions, affirms one thing: Israel is determined not to hold accountable those responsible for the crimes and grant them impunity within the Impunity policy. This is the same policy that supports the representatives’ need to expedite the completion of preliminary investigations initiated by the Prosecutor of the ICC since January 2015. After about 4 years of hope and patience by the casualties and their families and in light of Israel’s decisions to grant impunity for those suspected of committing war crimes, it is time to refer the case to the ICC.

The slow and late justice is a false and absent justice. Therefore, we call upon the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to speed up the investigations in the Israeli crimes committed since June 2014 in the oPt, including the Black Friday crime committed in Rafah.