Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, filed lawsuits on Monday at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against three Palestinian Authority leaders for alleged war crimes, terrorism and human rights offenses, following PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s move last week to join the court and seek to prosecute Israel.
Indictments were brought against PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Abbas’s deputy; minister Jibril Rajoub; and PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj, all of whom belong to Abbas’s Fatah party.
The NGO is also pursuing existing litigation filed against Abbas last November, as well as a case against Gaza-based terror group Hamas and its leader Khaled Mashaal, filed at the ICC on September 2014.
According to Shurat HaDin, during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict “Fatah openly boasted in Facebook pages and other media channels that it launched projectiles that caused the injury and death of Israeli civilians — a war crime under international law.”
The NGO pressed The Hague to issue international arrest warrants for the three pending litigation.
Shurat HaDin’s chairwoman and founder, attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said that the organization will make it as difficult as possible for Palestinian leaders at the ICC, and that they must be held accountable for crimes committed under their supervision.
“Abbas and his friends in terror organizations believe that the courts can be used as a weapon against Israel, while at the same time, the Palestinian leadership carries out crimes with utter impunity against their own people and against Israeli civilians,” Darshan-Leitner said.
The case brought against Faraj and Hamdallah details widespread torture and killings of Palestinian residents who reside in areas under PA control, according to a statement released by the group.
“Faraj and Hamdallah, as commanders in the Palestinian security services, are directly responsible for widespread human rights violations committed [in the West Bank] against regular Palestinians by units under their authority,” the statement read.
According to the indictment, Rajoub, too, was fully aware of the violations it listed and should be held “accountable for the actions committed under his auspices by his subordinates in the organization,” the statement read.
The ICC can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, came into force.
“The PA and Hamas have to understand that the International Criminal Court is a double-edged sword,” Darshan-Leitner said. “Years of murder, acts of terrorism and incitement will now be brought before prosecutors for investigation.”
On Saturday Israel froze NIS 500 million ($127 million) in Palestinian tax revenues collected on Ramallah’s behalf, in response to the ICC membership request.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinians leaders were the ones who should be prosecuted in the ICC over their unification with rival faction Hamas.
“It is the Palestinian Authority leaders – who have allied with the war criminals of Hamas – who must be called to account,” he said. “IDF soldiers will continue to protect the State of Israel with determination and strength, and just as they are protecting us we will protect them, with the same determination and strength.”
On Thursday, Abbas asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes allegedly committed during the 50-day war with Hamas and other Gaza terror groups last summer.
Israel lost 66 soldiers and seven civilians in the month-long conflict, while the Palestinian death toll surpassed 2,100, according to Hamas officials in Gaza. Israel said half of the Gaza dead were gunmen and blamed Hamas for civilian deaths because it operated from residential areas, placing Gazans in harm’s way.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.