- The International Legal Forum (ILF), an Israel-based legal group, submitted a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Palestine for torture.
- The submission comes as a UN body is set to release conclusions of a separate torture inquiry Friday.
- “The Palestinian Authority are yet to be held accountable under the law for committing such grave crimes as torture. We say ‘enough is enough’ and seek to change that,” ILF Chair and CEO Arsen Ostrovsky told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
An Israel-based legal group brought accusations of torture against the Palestinian Authority (PA) before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 18, the first request of its kind, ahead of a United Nations report scheduled for release Friday.
The International Legal Forum (ILF) requested the ICC to investigate President Mahmoud Abbas, now in his 18th year in office after canceling numerous scheduled elections, and the PA for “rampant, wide-spread and systematic torture” against Palestinian and Israeli nationals, ILF Chair and CEO Arsen Ostrovsky told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The investigation was launched a day before a separate UN body opened an inquiry into Palestine for similar allegations and is scheduled to publish its conclusions Friday.
“The Palestinian Authority are yet to be held accountable under the law for committing such grave crimes as torture. We say ‘enough is enough’ and seek to change that,” said Ostrovsky.
Examples include Palestinian human rights activist Nizar Banat, who criticized the PA and died after being beaten in the custody of the Palestinian security services in 2021, The New York Times reported. A trial against the officers responsible for his death has not yet concluded, with Banat’s family calling the trial a “farce,”according to Al-Araby.
The PA also claims jurisdiction over Hamas-controlled territory in Gaza, where the recognized terrorist group took two mentally-ill Israelis, Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu, hostage after they inadvertently crossed into Gaza in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to them. Hamas said in June that “the health of one of its Israeli prisoners has deteriorated” after releasing a video of al-Sayed hooked up to an oxygen mask, The Times of Israel reported.
“The ongoing detention incommunicado of Mengistu and al-Sayed … constitutes the grievous crime of torture, pursuant to the Rome Statute,” said Ostrovsky.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Palestine acceded to in 2015, prohibits crimes against humanity.
On July 20, The United Nations Committee Against Torture questioned Palestinian representatives on conditions in detention centers and the authority’s lack of clear legislation on torture in its first-ever review of Palestine’s torture record, according to a committee meeting summary, while headlining with praise over progress on violence against women.
The Palestinian delegation said the government had “plans” to revise torture legislation, including a draft law that more explicitly defined torture and banned it, “even when ordered by a superior.”
Delegation head Ziyad M. M. Habalreeh said that Palestine “abhorred torture and would not allow it to happen.” Habalreeh said Israel’s occupation of territory also claimed by Palestine interfered with day-to-day operations.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened an investigation into war crimes committed by Israeli forces, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in February 2021 on behalf of “various groups of victims.” However, Ostrovsky told the DCNF that, to his knowledge, he was not aware of complaints against Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh for the crime of torture brought to the ICC.
Ostrovsky explained that, while many governments and international organizations are quick to condemn Israel for alleged human rights violations, the PA is often treated more favorably. “We seek to also shine a light to this hypocrisy,” he said.
Outrageous that an @UN_HRC appointed human rights expert on Israel and the West Bank and Gaza repeated antisemitic tropes & questioned Israel’s legitimacy as a UN member. It is wholly unacceptable that such comments would come from an appointed member of a Commission of Inquiry. https://t.co/oEBBan9PX3
— Special Envoy Deborah Lipstadt (@StateSEAS) July 28, 2022
“It was the Palestinian Authority who sought to exercise ‘lawfare’ (weaponizing the law against Israel) by first initiating proceedings against Israel before the ICC. Therefore, it was the PA themselves who opened this door, and we are making sure they will now pay the consequences of that decisions,” said Ostrovsky.
Rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch documented instances of torture by the PA and Fatah in 2018.
The submission comes as President Biden acknowledged friendship with Abbas during his trip in July and announced an additional $300 million in aid.
The ICC declined to comment. The prime minister’s office did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment, and the president could not be reached.
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