Budapest, Hungary – Hungary has expressed its official support to Israel in opposing the launch of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into potential Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.
Hungary stands by Israel in ICC war crime investigation
In a letter sent to his Israeli counterpart Yisrael Katz, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said he fully supported Israel’s position that the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to conduct an investigation into war crimes committed in Palestinian occupied territories of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In his letter, Hungary’s top diplomat further stated that Budapest “shares Israel’s concerns regarding politicisation of the court and infringement of national sovereignty by the International Criminal Court”, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
He added that the Hungarian government, which has been keen to cultivate close ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has “consistently been fighting against campaigns aimed at creating a negative image of the state of Israel in different international organizations such as the UN or the EU”.
Katz expressed his “gratitude and appreciation for Hungary’s position” as Israeli officials fear the Hague-based ICC could launch an investigation and issue secret arrest warrants in the coming months.
Hungary joins the likes of Australia and the U.S. in siding with Israel to condemn the potential ICC investigation. Germany too had previously stated that it was “doubtful” the ICC had jurisdiction to investigate war crimes in Palestinian territories.
A ‘momentous step forward” in quest for justice and accountability
In December, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced after a five-year investigation that they had legal ground to open a case into Israel’s actions and possible war crimes, but nevertheless asked the court to rule on its territorial jurisdiction in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip.
Israel, which is not a member of the International Criminal Court, immediately dismissed the case and slammed the ICC as a “political tool to delegitimize the state of Israel”.
According to Ms. Bensouda, soldiers of the Israeli army, as well as members from Hamas and Palestinian armed groups, are liable to have committed actions that fall under the legal definition of war crimes.
The Palestinian Authority has welcomed the move: “Palestine welcomes this step as a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination”. Independent U.N. human rights expert and special rapporteur on the situation in Palestinian territories Michael Link also hailed the move as a “momentous step forward in the quest for accountability”.
Main photo credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP