In­ter­na­tional court wel­comes Pales­tini­ans as mem­ber

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY MIKE CORDER

The Pales­tinian Author­ity be­came a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court on Wed­nes­day, say­ing it wanted “jus­tice not vengeance” for al­leged Is­raeli war crimes.

Join­ing the court is part of a broader ef­fort by the Pales­tini­ans to put in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on Is­rael and comes at a time when the chances of re­sum­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on Pales­tinian state­hood are seen as slim fol­low­ing Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu’s re­cent elec­tion victory and tough cam­paign rhetoric.

“In the face of the great injustice our peo­ple are en­dur­ing and the re­peated crimes com­mit­ted against it, Pales­tine has de­cided to seek jus­tice, not vengeance,” Pales­tinian For­eign Min­is­ter Riad Malki said af­ter a brief wel­come cer­e­mony.

Pales­tini­ans signed the court’s found­ing treaty in Jan­uary and Pales­tinian membership came into force Wed­nes­day. In­ter­na­tional jus­tice ac­tivists hailed the oc­ca­sion as an op­por­tu­nity to bring ac­count­abil­ity to years of con­flict be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­rael.

Is­rael is not a mem­ber of the ICC, but the coun­try’s mil­i­tary and civil­ian lead­ers could now face charges if they are be­lieved to have com­mit­ted crimes on Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory. Is­rael had no im­me­di­ate com­ment Wed­nes­day.

The court’s chief pros­e­cu­tor, Fa­tou Ben­souda, opened a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion in mid-Jan­uary af­ter the Pales­tini­ans for­mally ac­cepted the court’s ju­ris­dic­tion dat­ing back to just be­fore last year’s Gaza con­flict.

Malki said the Pales­tinian Author­ity was wait­ing to see the re­sult of the pre­lim­i­nary probe. How­ever, he stressed the Pales­tini­ans were ready to call for a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion if the ini­tial ex­am­i­na­tion of ev­i­dence took too long, though he did not say how long that would be.

Some pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tions have taken months, oth­ers are con­tin­u­ing af­ter years.

Reivews over Gaza Con­flict

Hu­man Rights Watch wel­comed the Pales­tinian Author­ity as the court’s 123rd mem­ber and stressed it is now up to Ben­souda to weigh whether there is strong enough ev­i­dence to merit a full-scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Any de­ci­sion whether to pur­sue an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and against whom is not in the hands of the Pales­tini­ans or the Is­raelis,” said Bal­kees Jar­rah, in­ter­na­tional jus­tice coun­sel at Hu­man Rights Watch.

The re­view will likely fo­cus ini­tially on last year’s Gaza con­flict. The Pales­tini­ans suf­fered heavy civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, prompt­ing al­le­ga­tions by some rights groups that Is­rael com­mit­ted war crimes. Lead­ers of Ha­mas, which rules Gaza, could also face charges be­cause the mil­i­tant group fired rock­ets in­dis­crim­i­nately at Is­raeli civil­ian ar­eas.

AFP

Ahed Bakr, sec­ond from left, the fa­ther of a Pales­tinian vic­tim of an Is­raeli mil­i­tary strike on a beach in Gaza, vis­its with mem­bers of his fam­ily the graves of their loved-ones in Gaza City on Tues­day, March 31. The Pales­tinian Author­ity joined the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) with the goal of try­ing Is­raeli lead­ers for al­leged war crimes in sum­mer 2014.

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