State of Palestine Officially Member of International Criminal Court

The State of Palestine has joined 41 international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, as well as the core International Human Rights Treaties, and is now officially a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A closed and special ceremony organized by the ICC  honored the State of Palestine accession in the presence of the Palestinian delegation to the ceremony led by Foreign Minister Riad Malki and a team of diplomats and lawyers.

In a report put together by the PLO Negotiations Affair Department, Palestine’s policy to become party to core human rights and international humanitarian law instruments as well as the Rome Statute reflects Palestine’s unwavering commitment to peace, universal values, and  determination to provide protection for its people and hold those responsible accountable for the crimes they have committed.

The Palestinian Authority has decided to pursue an internationalization approach to achieve the long overdue inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to put an end to decades of colonization, dispossession, forced displacement and massacres, including the 2014 Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the occupied Gaza Strip.

The preamble of the Rome Statute refers to the State parties’ determination ‘to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes’

Palestine lodged on January 1, 2015 a declaration under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed ‘in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.’

After the presidential announcement to join the Rome Statute on December 31, 2014, Palestine deposited on January 2, 2015 its instrument of accession to the Rome Statute with the UN Secretary General.

On 6 January 2015, the United Nations Secretary General, acting in his capacity as depositary, accepted Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute, and Palestine became the 123 State Party to the ICC.

On 7 January 2015, the Registrar of the ICC informed President Mahmoud Abbas of his acceptance of the article 12(3) declaration lodged by the Government of Palestine on January 1, 2015 and that the declaration had been transmitted to the Prosecutor for her consideration.

It was welcomed as such by the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute.  The Statute entered into force on 1 April 2015.

The International community established the ICC in July 2002 to prevent the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression and to hold accountable those who commit such atrocities.

Palestine is a state under a foreign military occupation, the oldest foreign occupation in modern history. It has been recognized by 135 states and has established diplomatic relations with almost 180 states. In its resolution 67/19, the UN General Assembly granted Palestine nonmember observer status. Its borders are those of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in June 1967, including Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Israel claims that this move would eventually threat the chances to achieve peace, an allegation that is far from accurate. PA believes it is war crimes and war criminals that undermine peace efforts.

The PLO said that justice does not contradict the principle of negotiations. Both are necessary to reach a final status agreement. Supporting Palestine’s legal and diplomatic initiatives contributes to the advancement of international law and thus strengthens the possibility of reaching a just and lasting peace based on the internationally recognized terms of reference of the international law.

It further added, accountability and peace are mutually reinforcing. By seeking accountability, Palestine is contributing to the achievement of peace in the region.

The preamble of the Rome Statute recognizes ‘that such grave crimes threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world’. Only accountability and redress can bring justice and prevent the recurrence of such crimes in the future.

Though Israel doesn’t accept international jurisdiction, it was in fact created by a UN General Assembly resolution. It is important to note that Israel has been granted access to international treaties and organizations despite the fact of its status as an Occupying Power, of not having recognized borders and despite its gross violations of countless UN resolutions and agreements.

When matter come to opening investigations, only the UN Security Council and States parties to the Rome Statute can refer situations to the Prosecutor, but submissions are open not only for states, but also for individuals and organizations.

The State of Palestine lodged a declaration under article 12(3) accepting jurisdiction of the ICC for the purpose of identifying, prosecuting and judging authors, and accomplices of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.

Upon receipt of the declaration, the Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, opened, on January 16, 2015, a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine.

According to the ICC, a preliminary examination is a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute.

While many experts and Palestinians fear Israel’s lack of cooperation with the findings and orders of the ICC, the decision to join the ICC came as a result of an overwhelming consensus within the Palestinian people, Palestinian political parties and civil society institutions, reported the PLO.

It reiterated Palestine’s commitment to cooperate with the court, and this commitment has been reflected in the instrument of accession to the Rome Statute and through the signing of the Agreement on the privileges and immunities of the ICC.