UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has confirmed that the UK Government opposes the International Criminal Court’s investigation of alleged war crimes in Palestine.
In a letter to Conservative supporters of Israel in the British Houses of Parliament of 9 April 2021, the Prime Minister states:
“We do not accept that the ICC has jurisdiction in this instance, given that Israel is not a party to the Statute of Rome and Palestine is not a sovereign State. The investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s.”
The letter notes that the UK is a strong supporter of the ICC “in line with its founding statute” and has been working with other countries to achieve positive change at the Court. It expects the election of two highly qualified British lawyers, Judge Joanna Korner QC and Karim Khan QC as a Judge and the Prosecutor respectively, to assist reform.
The UK did not previously submit observations to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC when the Prosecutor referred to it the issue of territorial jurisdiction in Palestine. This was in contrast to a number of other States Parties that filed submissions disputing the claimed jurisdiction (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Australia, Brazil, Uganda), as well as numerous distinguished jurists and NGOs (including UKLFI).
The development in the position of the UK government may be the result of a number of factors: the range and depth of the submissionsthat disputed jurisdiction; the weakness of the majority ruling in favour of jurisdiction; the strength of the dissenting judgment of the Presiding Judge, Péter Kovács, who considered that the approach and reasoning of the majority had “no legal basis in the Rome Statute, and even less so, in public international law”; and representations that have since been made to the British government.
UKLFI Chief Executive, Jonathan Turner, said: “We welcome the clarity of the Prime Minister’s statement and hope that the Prosecutor and staff of the Prosecutor’s Office take careful note”.