Holding Israel Accountable
by Stephen Lendman
For decades, world leaders let Israel get away with murder. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR ) said enough is enough. It wants Israeli officials held accountable.
It launched a "Palestine to the ICC"  campaign. It wants relevant stakeholders involved. They include Palestine, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and enough world leaders who matter.
It wants them to "fulfill their responsibilities" to ensure long delayed justice and redress for decades of horrendous Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
The ICC is a permanent tribunal. It was established to prosecute individuals for crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. In 2017, it's jurisdiction extends to criminal aggression.
On July 1, 2002, it was established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It's history isn't encouraging. It serves wealth and power. It's an imperial tool.
It targets victims, not perpetrators. It prosecutes individuals Western powers designate.
Jose Luis Moreno-Ocampo was Bensouda's predecessor. He followed American orders and obeyed.
He ignored horrendous US crimes of war and against humanity in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere. He did nothing about similar Israeli crimes.
He rejected Palestine's bid to investigate Israel's Cast Lead criminality. PA officials sought court action under the Rome Statute's Article 12(3).
Ocampo's reasoning was spurious. He claimed "only internationally recognized states can join the court." His official statement said:
"(T)he current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of 'observer,' not as a 'Non-member State,' (and only) relevant bodies at the United Nations" or group of states that make up the court may decide if Palestinians can become part of the Rome Statute.
"(T)he Office has assessed that it is for the relevant bodies at the United Nations or the Assembly of States Parties to make the legal determination whether Palestine qualifies as a State for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute and thereby enabling the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court."
"The Rome Statute provides no authority for the Office of the Prosecutor to adopt a method to define the term 'State.' "
Palestine has been a state for over 24 years. Most nations recognize it. On November 29, UN Member States overwhelmingly upgraded its status.
Ocampo obeyed orders from Washington and Tel Aviv. He disregarded Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states:
"(N)o distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
Ocampo charged Gaddafi and others Washington wanted prosecuted. He shamed the office he held.
Will things change now?
On June 15, 2012, Fatou Bensouda replaced him. She's a Gambian lawyer and former state criminal law prosecutor. She also served as International Bank for Commerce (Gambia) general manager.
From 2001 - 2004, she was International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda legal advisor. Before becoming chief ICC prosecutor, she was Ocampo's deputy from September 2004 - June 2012.
On June 14, 2012, the London Guardian  called her "the woman who could redeem the international criminal court." Don't bet on it.
It's entire history is appalling. It contravened its mandate to end impunity for "unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity."
Its caseload is exclusively African. It chooses soft, Western designated targets. It's hard imagining Bensouda changing longstanding policy.
She has a lot of proving to do. She was Yahya Jammeh's criminal prosecutor.
He seized power in a July 1994 military coup. He staged three fake elections to solidify control. He's ruled tiny Gambia ruthlessly for 18 years. He's a brutal despot.
His decrees denied all human rights. Opponents are ruthlessly targeted. Free expression is suppressed. Torture is commonplace. Forced disappearances, extrajudicial assassinations, kangaroo court trials, and other abusive practices define his governance.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Gambia is "one of the most repressive countries for journalists in Africa."
Bensouda has much to answer for. Why was she Jammeh's state prosecutor? Why did she serve under Ocampo? What evidence suggests she'll make a difference now? Nothing in her professional background suggests it.
PCHR hopes for the best. It "demand(s) accountability for the countless Palestinian victims who have been denied access to justice for so long."
The Rome Statute recognizes that "all people are united by common bonds, their cultures pieced together in a shared heritage."
Universally recognized human rights are systematically spurned. Palestinians have been denied theirs for over 64 years. Occupation harshness is brutal. Besieged Gazans suffer most of all.
Conditions each year worsen. Collective punishment is official Israeli policy. It's enforced ruthlessly. Civilians are prime targets. Children and infants aren't spared.
World leaders able to act, don't. Proper investigations aren't conducted. Ocampo spurned Palestinian rights. He stuck his thumb in the eye of justice. His entire tenure reflected disdain for what's right.
PCHR wants the ICC to uphold its mandate. It's the principle independent body able to investigate crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide thoroughly.
PCHR's "Palestine to the ICC" wants relevant stakeholders to ensure Palestinian rights are addressed.
Palestine must first sign and ratify the Rome Statute. It must "lodge a declaration with the Court’s Registrar under Article 11(2) and 12(3) of the Statute, accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court from the date of entry into force of the Statute, 1 July 2002."
Bensouda must then do her job. She must initiate an investigation proprio motu (on her own accord). It must examine Israeli crimes or war, against humanity and genocide.
She must request Pre-Trial Chamber authorization to investigate, pursuant to the Statute's Article 15.
She must "reopen the preliminary examination, and take into account the proper elements in order to finally open an investigation into the situation in Palestine."
She must then bring the issue before the Pre-trial Chamber for judicial determination.
Enough world leaders must support Palestinian efforts for justice. Their only recourse so far has been to petition Israel's Military Advocate General (for criminal violations) and the compensation officer of Israel's Ministry of Defense (for civil matters).
Previous efforts through Israeli courts proved futile. They systematically spurn Palestinian rights.
PCHR said it worked many years within Israel's judicial system. The experience "unequivocally prove(d) that (it's) incapable of ensuring an effective remedy for Palestinian victims."
"This conclusion was confirmed by" the UN Cast Lead Committee of Experts. It said "the official inquiry must be conducted by a truly independent body, given the obvious conflict inherent in the military’s examining its own role in designing and executing ‘Operation Cast Lead.' "
Israel operated unaccountably for decades. Pillar of Cloud followed Cast Lead. What's next? How much more indiscriminate slaughter and mass destruction is tolerable.
How many more years of Palestinian suffering will world leaders permit? How much longer can the ICC spurn its mandate? It's time for all relevant stakeholders to step up to the plate and act responsibly.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.