Palestine’s move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the face of “strong opposition”, including from the United States, Israel and Canada, “deserves international support”, read a statement by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday.
Palestine officially joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 April allowing Palestine to press war-crime charges against Israel that include crimes committed during the latest 50-day conflict in summer 2014 with the Gaza Strip, which left at least 2,000 Palestinians dead, 10,000 injured as well as extensive infrastructure damage.
The charges will also include the increase of settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, said Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour.
Head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, originally presented documents for the accession of the Rome Statute of the ICC on 2 January, among 18 other conventions and treaties.
The ICC will deal with the crimes the occupation committed against Palestinians while brining commanders before international justice. The crimes include: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crime of aggression.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced four days later the acceptance of Palestine into the ICC.
The move to the ICC arrived following the denial of Palestinian statehood in late December by the United Nations Security Council, which received the votes of only eight members instead of the required nine for the statehood resolution to pass.
The US and Australia were both against the statehood resolution.
In response to the Palestinian move, Israel withheld Palestinian tax funds, amounting to around $400m, which it collects on behalf of Palestinian Authority. The move affected the salaries of employees in Palestinian public institution, decreasing them by 40%.
US State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, noted in January that the US is “deeply troubled” regarding the Palestinian move to the ICC.
Earlier in December, President Barack Obama signed an appropriation law cutting off some aid to the Palestinian Authority if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorised investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians”.
International justice counsel at HRW, Balkees Jarrah, said that “governments seeking to penalise Palestine for joining the ICC should immediately end their pressure”, while countries that support Palestine’s move “should speak out to welcome its membership”.
Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, previously told Daily News Egypt: “It’s our right to join the ICC. We are a state under occupation and it’s our right to internationalise the issue and defend our people.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved on 27 March the release of the tax funds accrued, however it’s not confirmed whether the Palestinian Authority has received any of the funds.
This is not the first time the Palestinian Authority appealed the ICC. In January 2009, when Palestinian Minister of Justice Ali Khashan filed a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.
However, the declaration was denied as the Palestinian Authority was not a participating “state” at the Rome Statute conference.
Nevertheless, in 2012, the UN General Assembly granted Palestine “Non-member Observer State” status, giving it the right to join the World Trade Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the World Bank and the ICC.