LONDON: More than 50 former foreign ministers, prime ministers and senior international figures have penned an open letter condemning efforts to interfere with International Criminal Court (ICC) efforts to investigate alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
It follows steps by the former Trump administration in the US to sanction court officials. These steps have since been reversed by the Biden administration.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also been implicated in the campaign to prevent the investigation.
He said last month that an ICC probe opened in March “gave the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that any ICC investigation would constitute “pure antisemitism.”
The open letter condemns “increasing attacks on the ICC, its staff and cooperating civil society groups,” and identifies the Trump administration’s campaign against the court as part of a wider effort by high-profile pro-Israel groups.
“We witnessed with serious concern the executive order issued in the US by former president Donald Trump and the sanctions designated against the court’s staff and their family members,” it read.
“Deeply worrying is now the unwarranted public criticism of the court regarding its investigation of alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including unfounded accusations of antisemitism,” the letter added.
“It is well established and recognized that accountability for serious rights violations by all sides to a conflict is essential for achieving a sustainable and lasting peace. This is the case in Israel-Palestine, just as in Sudan, Libya, Afghanistan, Mali, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Colombia and Ukraine.
“Attempts to discredit the court and obstruct its work cannot be tolerated if we are serious about promoting and upholding justice globally.
“We understand fears of politically motivated complaints and investigations. Yet we strongly believe that the Rome statute guarantees the highest criteria of justice and provides a crucial avenue to address impunity for the world’s most serious crimes. Failure to act would have grave consequences.”
The ICC probe has also faced criticism from major European countries, most notably Germany, which said the court “has no jurisdiction because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law.”
But Mogens Lykketoft, former Danish foreign minister and former president of the UN General Assembly, defended the ICC investigation, telling The Guardian: “A rules-based global order is predicated upon the idea that violations of international law must be met with consequences.”
The ICC “is a crucial tool to that end, and it is incumbent upon us to protect its independence and strengthen its ability to work,” he added.
“Challenging the independence of the court, on the contrary, challenges the protection of a global rules-based order.”
The ICC’s investigation “can be an important component of this, and the international community must do what it can to protect the independence of the court in carrying out its work,” said Lykketoft.