THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Palestinians handed a fresh dossier of evidence to the International Criminal Court in an attempt to get the war crimes tribunal to expand its existing probe of last year’s Gaza conflict to include the upsurge in violence of the past month.
Emerging from the court, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the new dossier, the third he has submitted this year, contained evidence of “extrajudicial killing, home demolition, collective punishment” including from the past 40 days.
“(We took) also examples of cases that have really occurred in the last 40 days of Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinians around occupied territory,” he told reporters after a meeting with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
The Palestinian Authority joined the ICC at the beginning of this year, over the protests of Israel, the United States and most of the court’s European backers, who have said legal action in The Hague risks delaying the course of peace.
Israel, which is not a member of the court, has declined to cooperate with both this and a previous probe relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that Palestine is not a state and so has no right to join.
Prosecutors earlier this year opened a preliminary probe of alleged crimes committed on both sides of the Gaza conflict, but, with all accessible gateways to Gaza controlled by Israel, Hague officials have not yet visited the scene of the alleged crimes.
“They promised that they would continue their efforts to get approval ... for a visit. We have already responded positively and we are still waiting for the same from the Israeli side,” Maliki said.
But while this week’s visit to The Hague by Maliki, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah appeared designed to sharpen the focus on the court at a time of increased Israeli-Palestinian violence, the Palestinian Authority has little influence over the progress of the probe.
The court’s preliminary examinations, designed to establish if crimes within its jurisdiction may have been committed, are long drawn out affairs, carried out independently by the court’s prosecutors.
A cease-fire in August last year ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Richard Balmforth