Former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has downplayed fears that Palestinian access to The Hague will result in a tidal wave of war crime indictments against Israelis.
Now that the Palestinian Authority has had its UN status upgraded to non-member observer state, it is eligible to join the court, though the PA has yet to do so.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo, who left the ICC in 2012 after a decade, said that should alleged war crimes cases be referred to the court, it would not automatically open proceedings because the ICC only prosecutes in cases where the local legal system is not performing.
“In a dictatorship they can make you disappear and kill you,” said Mr Moreno-Ocampo during a visit to Israel last week. “But here, even if the situation is awful, you cannot disappear; you have the rule of law.”
He stressed that Israel “has great lawyers,” and that if the Supreme Court could find a way to win the Palestinians’ trust, it could become the proper forum to rule on claims they want to bring before the ICC.
For the ICC to indict Israelis, he said, “the Palestinians have to prove that the [Israeli court’s] decision was to shield the defendants. They would have to prove that it wasn’t a fair proceeding.”
He was certain that the Israeli army had “changed its orders just because of the ICC”. During his visit, Mr Moreno-Ocampo was full of praise for the Israeli legal system and pointed out that joining the ICC could backfire on the Palestinians. “Being here in Israel is not like talking about international justice in Boston or Sweden. The issues here are not academic.”