We, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, submit this communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court concerning Mahmoud Abbas, in relation to crimes against humanity committed through a systematic and widespread campaign of murder, torture, and unlawful imprisonment against parts of the Palestinian population in in the territory of Judea and Samaria, known as the “West Bank”.
Abbas is a national of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (“Jordan”), which has been a State Party to the ICC since 2002. Accordingly, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes he has committed under the Rome Statute, regardless of where they took place.
Abbas became President of the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) in January 2005. Despite his term of office having elapsed without further elections being held, Abbas remains internationally recognized President and de facto leader of the PA, the body which maintains effective control over certain areas in the West Bank.
During his time in power, Abbas has directed or allowed various crimes against humanity against Palestinian groups – including those deemed to have been critical of the current PA government or which have supported rival Palestinian factions. Abbas knew of and was in a position to prevent the crimes against humanity that have been committed against the civilian population of the West Bank, yet he has manifestly failed to do so.
The case is grave enough to merit further investigation. Abbas’s crimes have had and will continue to have deleterious consequences on the Palestinian population of the West Bank, their families as well as the society and region. These crimes benefit no one but the PA leadership.
There is no prospect of local justice; pursuant to a series of international agreements, the PA has sole jurisdiction over crimes committed by Palestinians against Palestinians within the West Bank. The PA courts are not independent of the PA government, and have done nothing to punish those who play a direct role in committing these crimes against humanity. In any event, as PA President, there is no realistic chance of Abbas being prosecuted by courts over which his administration exerts significant control.
The crimes of Abbas are not merely historical; they are ongoing and contribute to the continued conflict between the rival Palestinian political factions Hamas and Fatah, and to the instability in the region. This internal conflict within the Palestinian leadership is damaging to the Palestinian population it is supposed to represent, and renders peaceful coexistence with its neighbours increasingly difficult. The ICC has the rare opportunity to take an important step not just in punishing perpetrators and deterring crimes against humanity, but also in sending a powerful statement that torture and similar acts are unacceptable. For all these reasons, we urge the Office of the Prosecutor to launch a full investigation.