THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has concluded that there is a "reasonable basis" to believe that Israeli forces committed war crimes during their deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, but ICC prosecutors have determined that it lacks "sufficient gravity" to warrant a prosecution by the court.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she decided to close the court's 17-month-long preliminary examination into the incident after concluding that it did not meet the legal criteria set by the Rome Statute, which requires the UN-backed court to prioritize war crimes that are committed on a large scale or pursuant to a plan or policy.
"I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli Defense Forces intercepted the flotilla on the 31st of May, 2010," Bensouda said. "These alleged crimes include, notably, willful killing, willfully causing serious injury to body and health, and committing outrages upon personal dignity."
But while the ICC's preliminary examination found a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed by Israel forces, the court concluded that any potential cases arising from a full investigation would fail to meet the Rome Statute's "sufficient gravity" requirement, and therefore the incident does not justify a prosecution by the ICC.
"Without in any way minimizing the impact of the alleged crimes on the victims and their families, I have to be guided by the Rome Statute," Bensouda said. "In the final analysis, I have, therefore, concluded that the legal requirements under the Rome Statute to open an investigation have not been met and I am announcing that the preliminary examination has been closed."
The raid happened in May 2010 when nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed and dozens more were injured after Israeli commandos boarded a ship participating in the 'Freedom Flotilla I', which was heading to the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid on board. The incident caused global outrage over alleged excessive force, but Israel has denied such allegations and said its commandos were being attacked.
Bensouda said the court's examination was limited to the flotilla raid and did not look at the overall situation of the civilian population in Gaza, which she described as "a matter of international concern."