International Criminal Court Declines to Prosecute Alleged Israeli War Crimes

Decision is defeat for anti-Israel activists across the globe

Turkish ship Mavi Marmara is seen docked at the port in Haifa on August 5, 2010
Turkish ship Mavi Marmara is seen docked at the port in Haifa on August 5, 2010 / Getty Images
December 2, 2019

The International Criminal Court on Monday declined to reopen an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes stemming from a 2010 incident in which a Gaza-bound flotilla filled with militant anti-Israel agitators was intercepted by Israeli authorities, leading to a bloody confrontation.

The ICC's lead investigator declined to bow to pressure and reopen an investigation into the nearly decade-old confrontation between Israeli military personnel and activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, a flotilla that attempted to violently penetrate Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Israel legal experts who have been following the hotly contested case celebrated the decision as a hard-fought win in a court that has historically been hostile to Israel. The decision comes as courts across Europe side with anti-Israel voices and the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. A European Union court decided late last month to append warning labels to Jewish-made products originating in contested areas of Israel, a decision that was met with concern about a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe.

"The Prosecutor hereby maintains her view that the preliminary examination of this situation must be closed," ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in an opinion issued Monday afternoon. "There remains no reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, since there is no reasonable basis to conclude that any potential case arising from the situation would be of sufficient gravity to be admissible before the Court."

This is now the third time Bensouda has declined to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.

"The Prosecutor maintains her view that there is not a reasonable basis to proceed, because there is no potential case arising from this situation that is sufficiently grave," the opinion states. "This conclusion is reached on the basis of a careful analysis, conducted in good faith, within the legal framework as it has been elaborated in this situation."

The case stems from Israel's confrontation with the anti-Israel activists, which resulted in the death of 10 of the blockade busters affiliated with the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, a Turkish anti-Israel organization whose German branch has been classified as a terror organization by Israel.

As Israeli commandos boarded the flotilla, activists aboard the ship used knives and clubs to assault the Israeli forces.

Those pursuing war crimes charges against Israel have sought to target the country's senior military and political leaders in courts across Europe and Turkey. A decision by the court to reopen the investigation could have forced ICC member countries to arrest and extradite any Israeli potentially tied to the 2010 incident.

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and international human rights group, praised the decision in a comment to the Washington Free Beacon. The Lawfare Project, in partnership with the U.K. law firm 9 Bedford Row, submitted communications to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC urging it to decline to pursue war crimes charges.

"We're extremely pleased the Prosecutor agreed with our analysis and reaffirmed her decision," Goldstein said. "It's refreshing to see an international institution doing the right thing and standing up for law and justice rather than bowing to anti-Israel political pressure."

An ICC spokesman did not return Free Beacon requests for comment on the decision by press time.

Published under: Israel