Al Jazeera has learned that the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) may be close to opening an initial investigation into last summer’s Gaza war.
The news comes after Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, told a group of reporters on Thursday that Palestine’s formal acceptance of the court’s jurisdiction starting June 13, 2014 gives prosecutor Fatou Bensouda a green light to take up the question of alleged war crimes on Palestinian territory without waiting for Palestine to formally become a member of the court on April 1.
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“It is within her discretion that she can do that,” Mansour said.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said legal experts had said the chief prosecutor had “very little option but to open initial investigation into war crimes”.
Fadi El Abdallah, a spokesman for the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, confirmed that the prosecutor can now in theory begin a “preliminary examination” of potential cases in the Palestinian territories.
Bensouda has not announced any such examination yet.
The potential cases could include allegations of war crimes by Israel during last summer Gaza offensive which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians.
Israel’s settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands could also be examined.