By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
GAZA CITY, Israel – On Tuesday, 3 April, the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) denied the Palestinian Authority’s request for the ICC to have jurisdiction within the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority wanted The Hague’s war crimes tribunal to investigate the 2008-2009 Gaza War where 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis lost their lives.
The Israeli foreign ministry commented that the country applauded the ICC’s decision although Israel is not a member of the ICC.
The Palestinian Authority declared the ICC has unilateral jurisdiction for “act committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002” in January 2009. After reviewing the Rome Statue, the ICC’s founding treaty, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced the ICC did not have jurisdiction within Palestine. Article 12 of the Rome Statue specifies only a “state” can extend the ICC’s jurisdiction to its state.
The Palestinian Authority could sign the 1998 Rome Statue after Palestine qualifies as a “state” by the “relevant bodies” by ICC member countries or at the UN. The Palestine Liberation Organization (“PLO”) presently holds an “observer” status rather than a “non-member observer state” status at the UN although over 130 governments recognize Palestine as a state.
Amnesty International warned that this decision could deny justice to the victims of alleged crimes from Palestine and Israel that occurred during the Gaza war.
Marek Marczynski, head of the International Justice campaign, said, “This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC. It also breaches the Rome Statue which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges.”
On Wednesday, 4 April, Chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo clarified that Palestine could sign the Rome Statue if it received the UN status of non-member observer state. The UN Security Council has not voted on the membership application Palestine submitted on 23 September 2011. The United States asserted it would veto the application. However, the General Assembly would likely approve an application for non-member observer state status if it submits one.
If Palestine receives this new status, Israel could avoid ICC intervention on this matter because Israeli courts have the capacity to try troops for the alleged crimes from the Gaza war. However, the ICC could later investigate possible violations that occur within the settlements, where the Israeli courts would have less credible means to handle the matter.
Human Right Watch’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth stated, “Today’s decision appears to close the door for now on access to the ICC for victims of international crimes committed in the Palestinian Territories – at least until the General Assembly recognizes Palestinian statehood.”
For more information, please see:
BBC – ICC Prosecutor Rejects Palestinian Recognition – 4 Apr 2012
The Times of Israel – Israel Won The Battle At The ICC, But Not The War – 4 Apr 2012
Washington Post – AP Interview: Prosecutor Says Palestinians Could Join ICC As A UN Non-Member Observer State – 4 Apr 2012
The Chicago Tribune – Hague Court Rejects Palestinian Call To Take On Cases – 3 Apr 2012