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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

International Criminal Court could investigate Operation Cast Lead

The International Criminal Court could yet resurrect the Goldstone Report from its grave.

In 2009, the Palestinians asked the ICC prosecutor's office to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli military during its December 2008-January 2009 Operation Cast Lead offensive in the Gaza Strip.

However, only a state can launch such a request under international law, which is why former prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo earlier this year decided to leave it up to the "competent organs of the United Nations" to decide whether or not Palestine was a state.

Now that Palestine has attained non-member observer status, it may ratify the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute. That could open the door for an investigation, despite intense pressure by countries including the US, Britain and France to desist.

Independent from the UN, the Hague-based court can prosecute individuals guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but only in countries that have ratified the Rome Statute, or countries which recognises its authority.

As in the case of Libya last year, an investigation can also be opened through a UN Security Council referral.

While a Security Council referral for an investigation remains remote -- Israel's staunchest ally the United States would likely veto the decision -- there are two other possibles routes to a probe.

The ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda may decide to ask ICC judges to authorise a probe, or an ICC member country may refer a situation to the prosecutor and ask her to investigate.
What could go wrong?

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