On 21 March 2021, the Israeli authorities at Allenby crossing confiscated the VIP border pass of Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Riad al-Maliki, upon his return to the West Bank, occupied Palestine. He was returning from a trip to The Hague where the International Criminal Court (ICC) is based. Two of al-Maliki’s aides, Ammar Hijazi and Ambassador Omar Awadallah, were detained and interrogated by Israeli intelligence officers at the crossing.
Ahmed al-Deek, a senior official in al-Maliki’s office, confirmed the incident, adding that Israel’s move is linked to al-Maliki’s meeting with Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, at her office on Thursday, 18 March 2021, concerning the ongoing investigations into apparent international crimes by Israel on Palestinian territory.
As background, on 3 March 2021, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC confirmed the official opening of a full criminal investigation into the Situation in Palestine, a move welcomed by the Palestinian Authority. The investigation will look at apparent crimes committed on Palestinian territory, since 2014, that fall within the jurisdiction of the Court
Al-Maliki added that during the interrogation, Israeli officers threatened the Palestinian diplomats with the imposition by Israel of economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) should its Foreign Ministry proceed to cooperate with the ICC.
The Occupying Power’s treatment of al-Maliki’s delegation and revocation of his VIP permit is retaliation for rights sought for the Palestinian people and a reprisal aimed at hindering the PA’s access to justice and accountability mechanisms. This move is not stand-alone, but rather is part of the systematic attacks on Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders and organizations by Israel and its associated organizations, a campaign that includes arbitrary detention, travel bans, residency revocations and smear campaigns.
Al Mezan calls on the international community, in particular States Parties to the Rome Statute, to support the ICC’s investigation into the Situation in Palestine and to promote international justice as also being for Palestinian victims, survivors and their families. Further, third States must ensure that Israel, the Occupying Power, abides by its obligations under international law, is held accountable for its violations, and ends its attacks and reprisals against Palestinian officials, human rights defenders and organizations engaging with the ICC.