The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary examination into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, opening a path to possible charges against Israelis or Palestinians.
"It's important to understand that the preliminary examination is not an investigation, it is a process in a course of which the office will gather information on alleged crimes committed in Palestine since June of last year, and then we will asses this information, and at the end of the process we will decide whether to open an investigation or close the matter, or possibly we would need further information," Emeric Rogier, head of the analysis unit at the prosecutor's office at the ICC said on Monday (January 19).
In a statement on Friday, prosecutors said they would examine "in full independence and impartiality" crimes that may have occurred since June 13 last year. This allows the court to delve into the war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza in July-August 2014 during which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed.
Rogier said the process to opening a possible full investigation could take from a few months to a few years.
"The office will look into allegations against all sides, so whether alleged crimes committed by Israeli forces, by Palestinian groups, we will conduct an independent and impartial assessment of all the allegations. In terms of timeline, the Rome Statute sets no deadline for completing preliminary examination, so the duration depends on a number of factors, so it could take a few months but sometimes it has taken a few years, it depends on cooperation we receive and access to the field, also it depends on the existence of national proceedings in the relevant countries," he said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed the Palestinians - whose peace talks with Israel have collapsed - will formally become an ICC member on April 1 at their request, a move strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.