International Criminal Court: Israel's greatest fear

Expert tells of Palestinian ICC membership benefits

The people of the world, including Palestinians have wondered why the state of Palestine has not yet acceded to the Rome Statute, putting it under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, allowing it to bring a case against Israel for its many war crimes and violations of international law. It has been baffling, frustrating and infuriating, leading many to speculate that Abbas is nothing more than a feckless lackey to the Jewish military state. I agree with that assessment.

17 July, 2014 Anadolu Agency
Palestine Liberation Organization mulls applying to join the International Criminal Court amid Israeli offensives against Gaza.

There would be benefits if the Palestinians applied to join the International Criminal Court, ICC, which could make it possible for them to pursue charges against Israeli military aggression, a justice expert said Thursday.

It “may open the door to justice for serious crimes against Palestinians — like the war crime of forced deportation or targeting civilians,” director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program, Richard Dicker, told Anadolu Agency in New York.

He said the Palestinians might also expose themselves for the ICC charges for non-discriminatory rocket attacks on Israel fired by Hamas militants.

Despite this, the application will “convey Palestine’s commitment to the rule of law for the most serious crimes,” Dicker said.

The International Criminal Court membership “will also provide international judicial accountability at the ICC for serious crimes committed by Palestinian citizens,” Dicker told AA, pointing that the firing of rockets to civilian targets is also considered a crime against humanity.

Asked whether Palestine’s ICC membership would contribute to the peace process, Dicker said justice was always good for peace.

“[The Israeli-Palestinian] peace process has suffered because of other factors, not because of the possibility of justice,” he said.

– The law of war 

From the Human Rights Watch’s point of view, there is no doubt about the responsibility at the side of Israel when it comes to the targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians, but Hamas has been rocketing Israel as well, Dicker said.

”We believe that Israel’s bombardment which is targeting and killing civilians in Gaza violates the laws of war,” he stressed.

“Palestinian armed groups are engaging in indiscriminate rocket attacks launched toward Israeli population centers,“ he said, adding that these all constituted violation of the laws of war.

Since July 7, Israeli warplanes have pounded the Gaza Strip with the ostensible aim of ending Palestinian rocket fire from the besieged coastal enclave. At least 237 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed so far.

In response, Gaza-based resistance factions have continued firing rockets at Israel, some of which have reached Tel Aviv. Since hostilities began early last week, one Israeli has been killed as a result of rocket fire from Gaza.

According to various reports, Israel is worried that a possible Palestinian membership at the International Criminal Court would result with the charges against Israel. That includes Israeli military actions against civilians and illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land captured in the 1967 war.

After being voted by the majority of UN’s 193 member states at the UN General Assembly in September 2012, a new, upgraded status allowed Palestinians to apply for full membership in dozens of international organizations, UN agencies and to become part of international conventions.

Palestinian officials have reportedly threatened to apply for membership of the International Criminal Court unless the Israeli operation against Gaza stops.

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, confirmed on Thursday that Palestinian authorities had not applied for membership yet.

“At least I am not aware of it,” Mansour told Anadolu Agency.

– Ending impunity

So far, the 122 states have ratified the Rome Statute for ICC membership. Some 70 states remain outside the system, “creating an impunity gap,” William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition of the International Criminal Court, said Thursday.

He urged UN member states for “ending impunity and not expanding immunity.”

In a written statement on the occasion of the International Justice Day, Pace said, major powers at the UN Security Council continue to show the selectivity, “which all too often use their vetoes on resolutions that would hold accountable the perpetrators of grave crimes.”

And “the recent veto of a Security Council resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the ICC is a case in point,” Pace concluded.

Although the mentioned resolution had wide support—of 13 of the 15 council members —it was declined by double veto casted by Russia and China.

On February 18th, 2011, the Obama administration, in his first ever veto on Palestinians, blocked the UN Security Council resolution that was to denounce illegal Israeli settlements policy as an “obstacle to peace” between Palestinians and Israelis.

And in September 2011, the U.S. was explicitly against and threatened to veto a Palestinian bid for full membership at the United Nations. Since 1990 up to now, the U.S. has casted ten veto votes, all on issues regarding the Middle East and the Palestinian question, according to the official UN record.

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