Palestinian officials have expressed concern over a report by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor that includes a warning that Palestinian stipends to the families of those killed or imprisoned as a result of the Israel-Palestine conflict could constitute a war crime.
Palestine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Malki on Thursday said the ICC report was “based on misleading narratives of a political nature … rather than an objective and accurate description of the relevant facts”.
The Palestinians have long sought redress with international bodies such as the ICC for what they consider Israeli crimes.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has long paid stipends to the families of people killed or imprisoned by Israel. The PA says these payments are a national duty to families affected by decades of violence.
But Israel, which argues the fund encourages violence, earlier this year withheld millions of dollars in tax revenues it collected on behalf of the PA equal to the sum of the Palestinian stipends.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said he will not halt the payments, which totalled approximately $330m – around 7 percent of the PA’s $5bn budget – in 2018.
Thursday’s report, released in The Hague, highlighted possible crimes by both Israel and the Palestinians that are under investigation, including Israel’s use of deadly force against the protesters along the Israel-Gaza fence.
At the Palestinians’ request, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in 2015 opened a preliminary investigation into alleged violations of international law following the 2014 war between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Thursday’s report said the prosecutor “believes that it is time to take the necessary steps to bring the preliminary examination to a conclusion”.
The ICC was set up as a court of last resort intended to prosecute senior leaders allegedly responsible for grave crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when national courts prove unable or unwilling to take on such cases.
A number of local and international human rights groups have raised concerns that Israeli security forces have used excessive force when confronting Palestinians who carried out attacks or were suspected of doing so.