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NGOs back Palestinian application for ICC membership

16 January 2015


Seeking support: the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, speaks during an Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters, in Cairo, on Thursday. Mr Abbas asked the Arab League to provide a "safety net" of $100 million per month to cover tax revenues withheld by Israel in retaliation for his move to join the ICC 

Seeking support: the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, speaks during an Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters, in...

THE Palestinian leadership has received support from a group of human-rights and development organisations for its accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) - a move that has been denounced by the United States and Israel.

Supporters of the Palestinian Authority (PA) include Amnesty International, Broederlijk Delen, Christian Aid, and Pax Christi Flanders. The group said that the accession of Palestine to the ICC would "deter war crimes and end impunity in the region".

The Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, Philip Luther, said: "This move by the Palestinians could help to address violations of international law by giving both sides access to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

In the view of the Middle East policy officer at Broederlijk Delen and Pax Christi Flanders, Willem Staes, the ICC should not be seen as an obstacle to peace negotiations, but rather as "a crucial instrument to break the decades-old culture of impunity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

The president of the Inter-national Federation for Human Rights, Karim Lahidji, said he believed that accountability was a "vital ingredient to resolving any conflict. . . By accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC, Palestine is upholding international norms."

The groups have urged the EU and its member states to welcome Palestine's ratification of the Rome Statute, and regretted that the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, missed the opportunity to do so in her recent statement. The EU had "committed to promote the universal adhesion to the Rome Statute. . . . It should stand by this commitment."

The policy and advocacy officer for Israel and the Palestinians at Christian Aid, William Bell, said that the EU and European states were "strong advocates of the ICC's role; it would be hypocritical and short-sighted to make an exception in this case. Advocating the impartial use of international justice mechanisms is not about taking sides, but rather about ensuring all parties are held to account for serious international crimes and protected by international criminal law."

President Obama, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed their joint opposition to the move in a tele-phone conversation on Monday. The White House said that Presid-ent Obama "does not believe Palestinian accession to the ICC is a constructive way forward", and repeated the US position that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was not a sovereign state, and did not qualify to join the court.

The human-rights organisations supporting the PA have urged "all actors, including Israel and the US, to halt or rescind any retaliation measures against Palestine, and instead recognise the benefit of introducing an element of accountability. Rather than sanctioning Palestine, Israel and the US should also sign up to the Rome Statute."

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