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Palestinian rights groups hand dossier on Israel to World Court

Israeli soldiers force a Palestinian man into an army vehicle after troops entered an area controlled by the Palestinian authority in the divided city of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on September 20, 2017. Palestinian human rights lawyers on Wednesday handed a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court alleging that Israeli authorities are responsible for crimes including apartheid and persecution in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)
THE HAGUE/JERUSALEM: Palestinian human rights lawyers and activists on Wednesday handed a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court alleging that Israeli authorities are responsible for crimes including apartheid and persecution in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The documents are an attempt to provide evidence for an ongoing preliminary probe opened in 2015 by prosecutors at the global court into crimes committed on Palestinian territories.
The so-called preliminary examination aims to establish if there are sufficient grounds for opening a full-scale investigation into alleged crimes by Israel, but also by Palestinians, during and since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, said in a statement that the dossier includes evidence that Israel forcibly removes Palestinians from the territories and replaces them with Israeli settlers.
“The communication to the International Criminal Court offers hope that anybody that commits crimes against Palestinians will be held to account,” Jabarin said. “We are convinced that there can be no lasting and genuine peace without justice.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry was studying the submission and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, called the transfer of Israeli settlers into occupied Palestinian territory, “a unique war crime in that it is coupled with the confiscation of massive tracts of Palestinian land, the extensive destruction of Palestinian property, and the tearing apart of the Palestinian social fabric and way of life.”
Under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, anybody can send prosecutors details of alleged crimes, but that does not mean the court will open a full investigation. It is unclear how long the preliminary examination of the Palestinian allegations will take.
In a written comment e-mailed to The Associated Press, the court’s prosecution office said it will “analyze the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality.”
Netanyahu rejects court call
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brushed aside a Supreme Court warning over his refusal to implement a deal allowing women and men to pray together at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
A Justice Ministry statement issued on Tuesday said the state attorney’s office had informed the court that Netanyahu was sticking to his decision to freeze the January 2016 agreement, arguing it was non-binding and subject to government policy needs.
Netanyahu’s right-wing government had agreed after a long campaign by reform Jewish groups to allow mixed worship at a section of east Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
But under pressure from ultra-Orthodox political parties, whose support is vital for the government’s slender parliamentary majority, the Israeli prime minister in June froze implementation of the scheme indefinitely.
The freeze angered the influential American Jewish community, the majority of whom follow more liberal strands of Judaism.
Israeli NGOs filed suit with the supreme court asking that it compel the government to honour the agreement and last month the court asked the government to reconsider the freeze.
“If the answer is in the negative,” the court wrote at the time, the state should address the question “if the possibility exists in law to compel the government to implement the agreement.”
The government’s written response said “no” on both points.

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