Mauritania urges ICC to probe Israel for 'genocide' against Palestinians
Mauritania's parliament on Saturday urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli officials for "genocide" after an 11-day bombardment on the Gaza Strip killed hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children.
Mohamed Ould Rzeizime, a lawmaker from the ruling Union for the Republic party, told AFP that the 157-seat national assembly unanimously adopted the non-binding resolution.
"The national assembly considers the ongoing Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people as one of the worst crimes of genocide," read the resolution, which was seen by AFP.
It added that the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague must "prosecute those involved in this aggression".
Mauritania, a conservative Muslim nation of 4.5 million people, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009.
The ICC had already opened an investigation in March into possible war crimes in the Palestinian Territories by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups since 2014.
The move infuriated Israel which is not a member of the court, while Palestine has been a state party to the ICC since 2015.
Last week, outgoing ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that she noted with "great concern the escalation of violence" in the West Bank and Gaza "and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute," which founded the ICC.
Thousands are homeless in the impoverished enclave of Gaza where a ceasefire on Friday ended deadly Israeli airstrikes on the besieged territory.
“All the ongoing suffering, bloodshed, dispossession, and destruction should finally put to rest the tired notion that the court has no role to play in Palestine,” Balkees Jarrah, associate director at HRW’s International Justice Program, said in a statement.
The ICC opened an investigation into serious crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in March, following a landmark decision by the court’s judges. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is leading an investigation into unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alleged war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza war
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel considers the Hague-based court as "void of the authority" to begin investigating his country.
Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have for years asked the ICC to investigate Israeli authorities for "crimes against humanity, apartheid and persecution".
"The uncomfortable truth is that the appalling loss of civilian lives is the predictable result of past violations for which virtually no one responsible was held to account. Countries that fail to put a check on this impunity play a role in the dire consequences that flow from it," Jarrah said.
But "without more support from the international community, the probe may be in jeopardy", he added.
At least 246 people, including 65 children, were killed in Gaza since Israel began an airstrike campaign on May 10. An estimated 72,000 people have been displaced, while humanitarian officials say the damage to property and infrastructure could take years to rebuild. Hamas rockets launched from the strip have killed twelve people, including two children, in Israel.
Israel has spared no efforts to shirk the court’s scrutiny. Netanyahu has called on his allies to reject the investigation and sent the Minister of Defence to hold talks with his German and French counterparts, claiming Israel can its own inquiry.
"ICC member countries in particular need to ensure that the court’s independence is protected, and that it has sufficient means, cooperation, and political backing to effectively do its vital work on behalf of victims of grave abuses across its docket," Jarrah added.