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What to expect after Palestinian leaders hand in ICC dossier on Israel

The Palestinian leadership will call on the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes by submitting a report to The Hague today
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses journalists as he meets with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization on July 22, 2014 in Ramallah

At 3pm Palestine time (13:00 GMT) the Palestinian Liberation Organisation will submit a report detailing Israeli war crimes and human rights violations to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

The Palestinian delegation, headed by the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, will submit the report, comprised of hundreds of pages, in an attempt to try Israeli individuals for breaching international law.

In a statement, the PLO said that the report will “focus primarily on providing the context within which a pattern of systematic interrelated crimes have been committed within and throughout the Palestinian state, including through the Israeli settlement regime, and the blockade and attacks against the Gaza Strip and civilian population.”

The report, broken up into three parts, discusses the violation of international law by the Israeli army and Israeli officials from the period of June 2014 to May 2015. The main focus will be on the summer war in Gaza last year, in which over 2,200 Palestinians - the majority of them civilians - were killed. The ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the issue of the Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails will also be detailed. The information will supplement other dossiers already provided by other organisations.  

Middle East Eye’s UN contributor James Reinl said that the development was important but “was no milestone”.

“The court has already received loads of information from various sources, and the ‘crimes’ have never been much of a secret,” he said. “Everyone has known about settlement-building and civilian deaths for a long time. It seems to me unlikely that the Palestinians can offer the ICC anything it doesn't already know. It really still comes down to the court whether or not to elevate the case towards a prosecution.”

What to expect from the Israeli side:

* More punitive actions, such as imposing economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority similar to the move back in January when the PA joined the ICC. Israel withheld the PA’s tax revenues, estimated to be around $127mn each month, for three months.

What to expect from the ICC:

The chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will decide whether to proceed with a preliminary inquiry after reading the first submission. If she decides to go forward, the inquiry will be followed up with a criminal investigation.

What to expect from the Palestinian Authority:

According to the Guardian, Palestinian officials have emphasised that even if chief prosecutor Bensouda chose not to conduct the initial examination after reviewing the submitted report, they will press ahead and make their own formal criminal complaint, which they are entitled to as they are members of the ICC. This is in line with the tactics adopted by the Palestinian Authority in recent years, in which the PA has chosen to challenge Israel’s occupation through a series of internationalising steps and strategic diplomacy.

This isn’t the first time the Palestinian leadership appealed to the ICC in a bid to investigate Israeli human rights violations.

Following Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the 23-day war, Palestinians sent an ad hoc request for the ICC to look into Israeli war crimes.

The chief prosecutor at the time took three years before deciding in 2012 that an investigation could not be carried out due to the non-state status of the occupied Palestinian territories. In that same year in November, the Palestinian leadership went to the UN, with Mahmoud Abbas asking the UN General Assembly to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state. This was granted, which gave Palestine the right to become a member of the ICC and send ad hoc requests for investigations.