Leading UK aid agencies have condemned Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
In a letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group in the UK, Mr Johnson described the UK as a ‘strong supporter of the ICC’ but strongly opposed the inquiry.
‘We oppose the ICC’s investigation into war crimes in Palestine,’ he wrote, adding: ‘we do not accept that the ICC has jurisdiction in this instance, given that Israel is not a party to the Statute of Rome and Palestine is not a sovereign state’.
‘This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,’ he added.
However, a coalition of leading UK aid agencies, including CAFOD, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights and Medical Aid for Palestinians, condemned his statement, saying the investigation is ‘bringing victims, survivors and their families one step closer to justice – but political interference by states, such as the UK, risks pushing that out of reach’.
‘The investigation is the first genuine hope that alleged perpetrators of the most serious crimes will be held to account for their actions,’ the agencies say. ‘The ICC is committed to undertaking an investigation that is “conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour”.
‘Providing impartial justice and ending decades of impunity would bring the prospect of lasting peace closer and would signal an end to the suffering endured by generations across the region.’
The agencies said that while the UK Government could be a ‘bastion of international law and human rights’, it is instead ‘undermining international criminal proceedings and standing in the way of justice’.
‘No longer can the UK Government genuinely assert that “Promoting international criminal justice and the rule of law are fundamental elements of its foreign policy”.
‘Rather, the Prime Minister’s statement sets a dangerous precedent, that may impact victims of grave crimes and threatens the viability, objectives, and the future of the court itself.’
The agencies urge the international community to ‘be consistent in its support for accountability and the rule of law, regardless of the context’.
‘The UK Government should respect the impartiality and independence of the court, and should support – rather than substantially undermine – international legal frameworks and judicial mechanisms,’ they add.
Signatories also include Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU); Action around Bethlehem Children with Disability (ABCD Bethlehem); Friends of Birzeit University; Embrace the Middle East; War on Want; Amos Trust; and Christian Aid.
Picture: Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian during clashes near a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank. (CNS photo/Mohamad Torokman, Reuters).