The Accession of the State of Palestine to the International Criminal Court (ICC)

March 31, 2015

Why was the ICC established?

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. 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”.

Why did Palestine join the ICC?

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 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. The State of Palestine 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.

When did Palestine sign its accession to the Rome Statute?

The State of Palestine lodged on 1 January 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." On 7 January 2015, the Registrar of the ICC informed President Abbas of his State of Palestine Palestine Liberation Organization ICC Higher National Committee March 31, 2015 acceptance of the article 12(3) declaration lodged by the Government of Palestine on 1 January 2015 and that the declaration had been transmitted to the Prosecutor for her consideration. After the presidential announcement to join the Rome Statute on December 31st 2014, the State of Palestine deposited on 2 January 2015 its instrument of accession to the Rome Statute with the UN Secretary General. On 6 January 2015, the UN 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. It was welcomed as such by the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute. The Statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on 1 April 2015.

What’s the legal status of the State of Palestine?

Palestine is a state under a foreign military occupation, the oldest foreign occupation in modern history. The State of Palestine 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 the State of Palestine nonmember observer status. The borders of the State of Palestine are those of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in June 1967, including Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Aren’t Palestinians threatening the chances to achieve peace with Israel by joining the ICC?

No. It is war crimes and war criminals who undermine peace efforts. In fact, 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. 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.

Is Israel member of any international treaty or organization?

Yes. 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.

Who can refer situations to the ICC?

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.

Did the Prosecutor undertake any step to examine the situation in Palestine?

Yes. 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 lodged by the State of Palestine, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, opened, on 16 January 2015, a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. 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.

Are Palestinians willing to cooperate with the Court?

Yes. 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. The State of Palestine is committed 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.

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