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Impartiality concerns raised as ICC prosecutor visits Israel

Rights groups raise concerns over impartiality as ICC prosecutor visits Israel
3 min read
01 December, 2023
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Centre for Human rights expressed "deep concern" over what they said was a "prolonged delay" in ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan's direct engagement with victims, especially in Gaza.
Karim Khan is the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor [Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty-archive]

Palestinian rights groups have called on International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan to engage directly with Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, and the Palestinian Centre for Human rights expressed "deep concern" over what they said was a "prolonged delay" in Khan's direct engagement with victims, especially in Gaza.

The rights groups added in a press release that Khan had "not been available" to meet with Palestinian victims and their legal representatives, saying "numerous requests" had been made since he assumed his post in June 2021.

In March that year, then-ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced an investigation into alleged war crimes perpetrated in Palestine since 13 June 2014. The ongoing inquiry covers the actions of Palestinians and Israelis.

The rights groups acknowledged Khan's upcoming meetings with Palestinian officials but said the "crucial need for direct interaction with victims remains unaddressed".

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The ICC announced on Thursday that Khan "is visiting #Israel at the request and invitation of survivors & the families of victims of the 7 October attacks". Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups broke out of Gaza to conduct an assault inside Israeli territory on that date, killing some 1,200 people - including hundreds of soldiers - and taking around 240 hostages.

The ICC said the chief prosecutor will also visit Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and meet with senior Palestinian officials.

The court said the visit was "not investigative in nature" but "represents an important opportunity to express sympathy for all victims and engage in dialogue".

The rights groups said: "Our organisations and Palestinian victims have continuously requested the Prosecutor to visit Palestine, emphasising the necessity for firsthand engagement.

"The absence of such interaction raises serious concerns about the perceived disparity, impartiality and lack of transparency in the Prosecutor's engagements."

The Palestinian NGOs called on Khan to extend his visit to Gaza. The prosecutor went to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the enclave last month, saying he could see Gaza but was unable to go any closer.

Khan added at the time that he "very much hoped" to be able to enter Gaza.

Al Mezan said on Wednesday that "genocide is unfolding against the Palestinian people" in the strip, where over 15,000 people have been killed by Israel's indiscriminate military campaign.

Triestino Mariniello, a legal representative of Palestinian victims before the ICC, said: "So far, Prosecutor Khan always failed to meet with victim representatives or victims themselves.

"Since he took office, his mandate has been characterised by double standards in relation to the situation in Palestine.

"The Prosecutor has not put in place any effective investigation, and allocated very minimal and largely insufficient funding to the investigation since it opened."

The New Arab contacted the ICC for comment but did not receive a response before publication.