MEPs give mixed reaction to Palestinian recognition of ICC

The United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has announced that Palestine will join the international criminal court (ICC) from 1 April.

By James O'Brien

08 Jan 2015

On 1 January 2015, the Palestinian authority (PA) lodged documents under the ICC Rome statute declaring Palestine's acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC. This is the final step in joining the permanent war crimes tribunal.

In response to the move, Israel is withholding over €106m in taxes it collects on behalf of the PA and has promised tougher sanctions will follow.

The development drew a mixed response from members of the European parliament.

Martina Anderson, chair of parliament's delegation for relations with the Palestinian legislative council (DPLC), albeit speaking in her capacity as a member of the GUE/NGL group, said the development "should be welcomed by everyone who believes in the right of the Palestinian people to peace and justice".

"Joining the ICC is essential 'to ending the impunity under which Israel enforces its illegal occupation of Palestine'" - Martina Anderson, GUE/NGL group

She added, "This is a political, peaceful and legitimate course of action initiated by the Palestinian authority. By joining the ICC Palestine is simply utilising international law as a means of accessing justice for their people, who have been denied justice by Israel for decades and who have been failed by many in the international community. "

She said that joining the ICC is essential "to ending the impunity under which Israel enforces its illegal occupation of Palestine".

Anderson concluded by criticising Israel's withholding of taxes as demonstrating an "absence of respect for international law" and said that Israel is fearful that "its action during the so-called 'operation protective edge'  will be further exposed to the international community by the ICC".

The chair of parliament's delegation for relations with Israel Fulvio Martusciello warned that Palestinian admission to the ICC "is likely to turn the UN into an instrument of political use".

Martusciello added that pursuing Israel on war crimes charges would "adversely affect the Palestinian's position in the peace process".

The EPP MEP encouraged the PA to engage in "fruitful dialogue" instead of "exploiting the international treaties and conventions of enormous historical and symbolic value, [thereby] creating a further obstacle to achieving peace in the Middle East".

"[Pursuing Israel on war crimes charges would]adversely affect the Palestinian's position in the peace process" - Fulvio Martusciello, EPP group

Bas Belder, vice chair of the delegation for relations with Israel echoed Martusciello's comments, warning that the PA's decision to join the ICC "may prove to be a grave mistake".

He said, "It will expose them to war crime charges which will be difficult to refute given the terrorist nature of several Palestinian political factions; some which boast of intentionally targeting civilians."

The ECR MEP member concluded that "anti-Israel bias has become so surreal that even interpreters employed at the UN have mocked it and has led European diplomats ceasing to attend sessions concerning Israel at the UN human rights council".

Prior to the acceptance of its bid to join the ICC, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour indicated that the Palestinian government want to prosecute Israel in relation to crimes committed during the war in Gaza last summer ('operation protective edge')and sue Israel for constructing settlements on occupied territory.

Joining the ICC is part of a wider Palestinian effort to gain international recognition for a sovereign Palestinian state. In December 2014, MEPs voted by a majority of 498 to 88 to support "in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution".


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