ICC probe ‘lacks legal merit’

Clashes erupted between Israeli troops and activists on board the Mavi Marmara which was attempting to break the Gaza blockade. Photo: AJN File.

THE judges who voted to reopen the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) investigation into the 2010 flotilla incident have “undermined the institutional credibility of the ICC”, Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm said this week.

The court decided last year that allegations regarding Israel’s conduct during the raid on the Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, were not serious enough to warrant further investigation. But last week, two of its three judges voted to order ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to reopen the investigation.

Lamm labelled the move “a thoroughly politicised ruling utterly lacking in legal merit or factual foundation”.

“[It] is simply another chapter in the ongoing campaign of lawfare against Israel,” he said.

“The judges who voted to reopen this investigation have not only compromised their individual credibility as jurists, but have also undermined the institutional credibility of the ICC.”

Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said it was “sad and worrying” to see the ICC “slipping into the same politicisation that has for so long blighted the UN and other international organisations”.

“The ICC is an experiment in extending the reach of international law – a neutral, professional body that governments could rely on to operate according to the highest standards of evidence, to interpret and apply the relevant law fairly and prosecute the worst war crimes or crimes against humanity when governments could not,” he explained.

“This blatant case of letting politics interfere with its professional decision-making can only delegitimize the new ICC in the eyes of many and severely damage any hopes that this worthy experiment can succeed.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot said the initial decision to close the file last year “was an eminently sensible decision”.

“The unfortunate reversal of this decision by the pre-trial chamber of the ICC in connection with a small-scale, albeit tragic, incident will inevitably invite comparisons with the ICC’s complete inaction over the Assad regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons on its own civilians, continual terrorist crimes against civilians by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, and the ongoing large-scale carnage in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen,” he said.

Israeli government officials are concerned that the development signifies that ICC judges are receptive to Palestinian claims.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) joined the court in April this year. In June, PA foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki lodged files with the court which he claims contain proof of Israeli war crimes during Operation Protective Edge last year, and also in relation to settlement construction, alleged occupation of Palestinian land and the treatment of Palestinians inside Israeli prisons.

Israel is not a member of the ICC.

GARETH NARUNSKY