ICC has 'no deadline' on war crimes probe

Official with International Criminal Court says there is no deadline on investigating alleged Israeli and Palestinian "war crimes" in Gaza.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff,

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has no deadline for deciding whether to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel and Palestinian Arabs, an ICC official said on Friday.

"There is no time limit," the ICC's Phakiso Mochochoko told AFP during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)-assigned territories.

"In due course when the time is right, when all the conditions have been met and when we have assessed everything, then the decision will be made," he added.

The PA officially joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, and immediately filed a series of legal complaints with the court. In addition to claiming that Israel committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war, it also claimed that Israeli “settlements” are “an ongoing war crime”.

PA foreign minister Riad al-Malki presented the court with a dossier alleging violations during the 2014 Gaza war and another on Israel's alleged “occupation” and “settlement” in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

In January 2015 the ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes court, opened a preliminary examination into alleged abuses by both sides but has not moved to a formal investigation.

Israel vehemently opposes any ICC investigation, but officials have said they will cooperate with the body to convince it of the competence of the state's own courts.

The PA has expressed frustration at the slow pace of proceedings.

"There is no lack of evidence and we believe that the office of the prosecutor should have been moving much faster," Ammar Hijazi, a PA foreign ministry official, said Thursday.

Mochochoko refused to be drawn on a possible timeline.

"At the moment I am not in a position to say whether it is a question of months, whether it is a question of days, whether it is a question of weeks," he told AFP, speaking in English.

"There is a lot of information, there is a lot of reports and there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to analyze that information and to assess it."

Mochochoko, a member of the ICC prosecutor's office, arrived Wednesday at the head of a four-strong delegation for a five-day mission to Israel and the PA.

The delegation is expected to visit the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria on Saturday and Sunday, but is not visiting Gaza even to explain their work during this trip.

Mochochoko denied that Israel had blocked a visit to Gaza, over which it imposes a naval blockade in order to prevent weapons to be smuggled for use by terrorists.

"The office of the prosecutor is independent and it is impartial. Nobody dictates the terms of anything to the office of the prosecutor," Mochochoko told AFP, adding the locations visited had been "accepted by both parties as the parameters for this particular mission at this particular stage in time."

He said the delegation's visit was purely about explaining the work of the court and not seeking testimony.

"At this stage...we do not have any mandate to engage with witnesses, we don't have any mandate to collect evidence," he stressed, adding, "We are not doing any fact finding mission.”

"What the future holds for us, that remains to be seen."

AFP contributed to this report.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)