Palestine applies for membership in International Criminal Court

The Palestinian Authority on Friday took further steps towards joining the International Criminal Court and has asked the court to investigate crimes Israel has committed on Palestinian territories since June 13, 2014, according to ICC sources.

A US senior State Department official told Reuters that the move could have implications for US aid to Palestine saying: “It should come as no surprise that there will be implications for this step, but we continue to review. U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority has played a valuable role in promoting stability and prosperity not just for the Palestinians, but also for Israel as well." If there is an investigation launched it could be focused on the long war on Gaza that began on July 8 of last year. However, the Palestinians also seek an investigation into the continuous building and expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. These settlements are considered illegal under international law. Any probe could begin once Palestine becomes a full member of the ICC and signs the Rome Statute.

 Relevant documents, the instruments of ratification were delivered to UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Stephen Mathias, by Riyad Mansour the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN. The ICC has recognized the UN General Assembly's recognition of Palestine as an observer state. It will take at least 60 days for Palestine to become a member of the court. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime MInister, urged the ICC to reject that Palestinian request to join since they are not yet ranked as a state: AFP reported Netanyahu as saying: “We expect the ICC to reject the hypocritical request by the Palestinian Authority, which is not a state but an entity linked to a terrorist organization." Netanyahu was referring to the fact that the Palestinian Authority now rules in a unity government with Hamas, which is classified by the US, Israel and some other countries as a terrorist organization.

The Palestinian status at the UN was upgraded from observer entity to observer state in 2012 opening up the possibility of joining the ICC as well as numerous other international organizations. US State Department spokesperson, Edgar Vasquez, claimed the Palestinian move would be counter-productive and do nothing to help Palestinians achieve a sovereign and independent state: “It will badly damage the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace."

 Palestine had threatened to make this move if a resolution presented to the UN security council to establish a timetable for an Israeli pullout from occupied territories among other items, failed to pass. The motion was defeated by one vote but would have been vetoed by the US in any event.

Juan Cole claims that if an investigation does go ahead by the ICC the court could very well find that specific Israeli officials were guilty of violations of the Rome Statute of 2002: Article 7 forbids “Crimes against Humanity,” which are systematically repeated war crimes. Among these offenses is murder, forcible deportation or transfer of members of a group, torture, persecution of Palestinians (an “identifiable group”) and “the crime of Apartheid.” Cole claims that the Israeli government murdered Palestinian political leaders and routinely expelled Palestinians from parts of the West Bank. Building squatter settlements on Palestinian land and excluding Palestinians he cites as an example of an Apartheid policy. Cole says that convicting Israelis under Article 7 would be "child's play for the prosecutor". The ICC can only work through member states but it could authorize states to capture and imprison convicted authorities. Israel could also be subject to legal reparations that might threaten Israeli business interests and operations in Europe, as well as making travel to some countries for convicted officials hazardous. Sudanese president Omar Bashir is already in the position of not being able to visit Europe without risking arrest after his conviction by the ICC.


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