Call on ICC to advance Palestinian ratification 10Oct13 October 10, 2013

Alternative Information Centre   -    9 October 2013

The_International_Criminal_Court_ICCAl-Haq and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) met International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou B. Bensouda, to personally present a legal paper, prepared in cooperation with Dr. Michael Kearney of the University of Sussex. The paper provides legal justification for the Prosecutor to move forward with the declaration submitted by the Palestinian leadership in 2009, accepting the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor can ratify the 2009 declaration without any renewed action needed from the Palestinian leadership. The crux of the argument is that the question of Palestinian statehood, presented by the former Prosecutor as justification for not extending ICC jurisdiction, has been definitively removed following Palestine’s upgrade to Non-Member State status on 29 November 2012.

The ICC is a permanent tribunal for the prosecution of individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, although jurisdiction for the crime of aggression will not be applicable until 2017 at the earliest.

The ICC was created by the Rome Statute, which came into force on 1 July 2002. The Court has established itself in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings can take place anywhere in the world. 122 countries are currently States Parties to the Statute of the Court, including all of South America, most of Europe and Oceania, and roughly half of the African nations. A further 31 countries, including Russia, have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. TheUnited Statesis not a parties to the Court, andIsrael and Sudan have informed the UN Secretary General that they no longer intend to become States Parties and, as such, have no residual legal obligations from their former representatives’ signatures of the Statute.

On 21 January 2009, the Palestinian National Authority formally accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. However, in 2012 the ICC Prosecutor declared himself unable to determine whether Palestine constituted a “state” for the purposes of the Rome Statute, and referred the decision to the United Nations. On 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state.

Speaking after the meeting, Shawan Jabarin, the General Director of Al-Haq stated: “With this paper we are submitting our position that the rights of Palestinian victims are not subject to compromise.  Any negotiated agreement that sidelines the pursuit of justice through the ICC, is an agreement that lacks the representative support of Palestinian civil society.  Our role as Palestinian human rights organisations is to pursue justice and accountability regardless of negotiations, and we condemn any pressure exerted to the contrary. This is especially important in light of the fact that violations of international law continue unabated despite ongoing negotiations.  We call on the Prosecutor to move forward on the 2009 Palestinian declaration and simultaneously urge the Palestinian leadership to support such a move, in addition to acceding to other international instruments.” 

Unfortunately, due to the restrictions on movement in and out of the Gaza Strip, Raji Sourani, the Director of PCHR was prevented from attending the presentation.  The meeting was however, attended by the President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Mr. Karim Lahidji, who chose to be present as a display of support for the position taken by Al-Haq and PCHR.

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