Middle East minister "working" to "change" ICC

James Cleverly also said UK is pressurising Israel over East Jerusalem evictions


Middle East Minister James Cleverly has insisted the UK is “working with other countries to bring about positive change” at the International Criminal Court after he was warned its  recent decision to investigate Israel for possible war crimes against Palestinians leaves Britain’s armed forces also at risk of “vexatious claims.”
Sarah Atherton, the Conservative MP for Wrexham, told the House of the Commons that she believed the ICC’s decision earlier this month “not only undermines the Middle East peace process but heightens the exposure of our armed forces to vexatious claims by setting a precedent that non-state actors can initiate proceedings.”
Asked what steps he was taking to ensure the UK was at the forefront of reforms of the ICC, Mr Cleverly said: “The UK respects the ICC’s independence, but we are working with other countries to bring about positive change within the court. The UK was instrumental in the establishment of the independent expert review, which reported in September, together with other state parties.
“Additionally, the UK is driving forward reforms to governance, prosecutorial excellence, and a more rigorous approach to budget control and value for money.”
Last month the ICC  announced that it has jurisdiction in Palestine, clearing its chief prosecutor to investigate alleged atrocities despite fierce Israeli objections.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu  condemned the ruling and said the country would “protect our citizens and soldiers in every way from legal persecution”.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, had earlier said she intends to open a formal inquiry into alleged war crimes in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
However, due to Palestine’s status as an occupied territory rather than a sovereign country, she had waited for judges to “confirm” if the court, headquartered in The Hague, had the authority.
Mr Cleverly also dismissed claims that the UK is failing to put pressure on the Israeli government over cases involving Palestinians who claim they face eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem.
Stressing how Britain retains a “close and productive working relationship with Israel”, Mr Cleverly told the House of Commons on Tuesday: ”When we speak, the Israelis absolutely do listen.”
The minister was responding to a question put to him by the Labour MP Julie Elliot, who suggested his government should do more than just “urge” the Israeli government to “bring to an end this acceptable situation” of forced eviction of Palestinians in the region.
“The hon. Lady dismisses our urgings, but I remind her that the UK’s voice has had an influence on decisions made by the Government of Israel,” added Mr Cleverly.
Speaking during a debate on 'East Jerusalem: Forced Evictions and Dispossessions', the minister also stressed how the vast majority of Palestinians receiving UK funded legal support in the region had actually remained in their homes.
He said: ”In 96% of cases, those receiving UK-funded legal support have remained in their homes.
“The UK ambassador joined ambassadors of European states to urge the Government of Israel to cease demolitions. He attended a meeting with Israeli authorities on 25 February.
“At the United Nations Security Council on 26 February, the UK permanent representative called on Israel to end demolitions of Palestinian homes and allow the delivery of emergency humanitarian aid.”
Mr Cleverly also stressed the UK’s role in attempting to kick start dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians once again.
“The UK has been working with both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, alongside the United States and international key partners, to progress specific areas of co-operation, including water and gas provision, energy infrastructure and trade facilitation,” he said.
“We are also seeking to re-establish formal Israeli-Palestinian mechanisms, such as the joint economic committee and its relevant sub-committees.”

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