LONDON: Palestine has said its relations with Britain have reached a “new low” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied territories.
In a letter to the lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel, Johnson said his government had “respect (for) the independence” of the ICC but opposed the inquiry.
“This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,” he wrote.
In a statement posted on its website, the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Britain said Johnson’s letter was “deeply regrettable” and “marks a low point in UK-Palestine relations and undermines the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”
The letter contradicts both international law and Britain’s own policy on Palestine, the mission said, stressing the need to respect international law for the good of all parties.
“We sincerely hope the UK will reconsider its position and that in the cold light of day understand that the best option for everyone, including Israel, is a firm commitment to international law and the basic principle of equality for all,” it added.
A panel of judges at the ICC ruled in February that the court has jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The court is expected to look at possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.
“Shamefully, Johnson has made clear that the government’s opposition to the ICC’s investigation is rooted in the fact that it’s being initiated against ‘a friend and ally of the UK’s’,” Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told Arab News.
“It also renders farcical and hypocritical the prime minister’s simultaneous assertion that the UK is ‘a strong supporter’ of the court,” Jamal added.
“We call upon the UK government to adopt a more consistent position supporting the court but not exempting Israeli officials from proper investigation.”
A joint letter penned by several charities and aid groups accused Johnson of “political interference” in the ICC’s work.
The UK government “could be a bastion of international law and human rights — but instead it is undermining international criminal proceedings and standing in the way of justice,” said the signatories, which include Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Council for Arab-British Understanding.
The government “should respect the impartiality and independence of the court, and should support — rather than substantially undermine — international legal frameworks and judicial mechanisms,” they added.