SA’s ambassador in The Hague submits Israeli referral to ICC
The department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) on Friday confirmed that the referral seeking the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes has been personally delivered in The Hague.
“SA referred the situation in the state of Palestine to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC), pursuant to article 14 of the Rome Statute. The referral was delivered in person by SA’s ambassador in The Hague Vusi Madonsela,” the department said in a statement.
The delivery comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that Pretoria was moving beyond just nudging and calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine conflict and has decided to refer Tel Aviv to the ICC for a war crime investigation.
Protocols of the ICC allow member states to refer another state to the office of the ICC prosecutor, where they believe war crimes and other human rights violations are being committed. Then it decides if it should launch a full war crimes investigation.
Dirco said the Palestine situation was referred by the state of Palestine in 2018 and the prosecutor of the ICC opened an investigation in 2021 after Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC confirmed that the territorial jurisdiction of the situation includes Gaza and the West Bank, as well as east Jerusalem.
“This is after a number of countries sought to block the referral by the Palestinian Authority by challenging the court’s jurisdiction with regards to the situation in Palestine. This investigation is ongoing, and the prosecutor, Mr Karim AA Khan, has confirmed that Rome Statute crimes committed since October 7 form part of the OTP’s investigation.”
International relations minister Naledi Pandor's office went on to say: “SA, along with like-minded states parties, including Bangladesh, Bolivia, Venezuela, Comoros and Djibouti, as state parties to the Rome Statute, submitted a joint referral of the situation in Palestine to ensure that the ICC pays urgent attention to the grave situation in Palestine and thereby lending their support to the prosecutor’s investigation. Venezuela will petition the court in writing to join the submission.
“SA is further encouraging other states parties to the Rome Statute to join the referral, or to submit separate referrals independently.
“SA remains committed to ending impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and it is hoped that the situation in Palestine will be prioritised by the ICC in order to deliver justice to the victims of these grave crimes.”
The move indicates SA has been losing patience with Tel Aviv, after first withdrawing its diplomats from the Israeli capital.
Dirco last Friday read the riot act to Israeli ambassador to SA Eliav Belotserkovsky, issuing a démarche after his “recent unfortunate conduct relating to the unfolding, tragic Israel-Palestine war”.
During a question-and-answer session in parliament last week, Pandor called for the ICC in The Hague to arrest Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu for the killing of women, children and the elderly in his country’s war with Palestine.