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ICC readies final position on Palestinian statehood

Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is expected to announce the court's final decision on whether Palestine can be regarded as a state. A favorable ruling for Palestine could begin attempts to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes. File Photo by EPA/STR
Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is expected to announce the court's final decision on whether Palestine can be regarded as a state. A favorable ruling for Palestine could begin attempts to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes. File Photo by EPA/STR

April 29 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court, considering prosecution of alleged war crimes against Israel, said it will announce its position on Palestinian statehood Thursday.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected to file her final determination Thursday in The Hague, Netherlands, on whether Palestine, whose claimed territory is administered largely by Israel, can be regarded as a state. In December 2019 she ruled in favor of acknowledging statehood, asking the ICC Pretrial Chamber to endorse her legal opinion. She added that that there is sufficient evidence to open a criminal investigation against Israel and the Lebanese paramilitary group Hamas on war crimes charges. However, ICC cases are typically begun only if referred by a formally recognized state.

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About 50 countries, non-government organizations and respected diplomatic experts have filed opinions for or against Israel, and on Palestinian recognition, since December. Germany, one of the ICC's largest funders, has sided with Israel, opposing Palestinian statehood. The Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are among those supporting Palestine.

The United States, which is not an ICC party, maintains a strongly pro-Israel position. The administration of President Donald Trump rescinded Bensouda's visa for U.S. travel. A U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday that it was ready to recognize Israel's annexation of much of the West Bank, territory with a largely Palestinian population but Israeli control.

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Bensouda's decision Thursday is likely to have legal, diplomatic and public relations consequences for Israel, which is also not a member of the Rome Statute, the agreement which founded the ICC in 2002 as a permanent international court. If Palestine is recognized by the ICC, it could bring war crimes charges against Israel.

A coalition of over 180 Palestinian regional and international human rights coalitions called on Bensouda to investigate alleged Israeli crimes in Palestine.

"We urge that in light of the pervasive climate of impunity, which has prevailed for over five decades in the occupied Palestinian territory, that perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine must be held accountable at the International Criminal Court," they said in an open letter published Wednesday.

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