Palestine/Israel: ICC decision an important step towards accountability for crimes under international law

The ICJ welcomes the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision establishing that the Court can assert its jurisdiction over serious crimes alleged to have occurred in the State of Palestine since 13 June 2014.

On 5 February 2021, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I held by majority that: (i) Palestine has correctly acceded to the Rome Statute and has thus become a State party to it; and (ii) the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction extends to “the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

“The ruling is a first step towards breaking the cycle of impunity for crimes under international law committed by all parties to the conflict in Palestine,” said Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director. “The Prosecutor should immediately open an investigation with a view to establishing the facts about such crimes, and identifying and prosecuting those most responsible.”

The decision was prompted by a request of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor seeking confirmation of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction.

The Prosecutor had previously concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

On 16 March 2020, the ICJ submitted amicus curiae observations in support of the Court’s jurisdiction, arguing that:

  • Palestine has successfully acceded, and is a State Party, to the Rome Statute. The Court should accordingly exercise its jurisdiction over Palestine as it does in respect of any other State Party;
  • The Palestinian Territory over which the Court should exercise jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza; and
  • Palestine is a State under international law, satisfying recognized international law criteria for statehood, displaying State activity and engaging in diplomatic relations with other sovereign States. The decades-long belligerent occupation of Palestine by itself has no decisive legal effect on the validity of its claim to sovereignty and statehood.

The Pre-Trial Chamber decision confirmed the first two of these observations, without considering the status of Palestine’s statehood under general international law.


Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; t: +41 22 979 3817 e: said.benarbia(a)

Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; t: +216 53 334 679 e: vito.todeschini(a)

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