Tribunal should not include Palestinians, Canada says
Baird says plan to punish Israel for war crimes is ‘dangerous’
OTTAWA — The Canadian government is condemning a move by the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court in a bid to eventually launch warcrimes prosecutions against Israel.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the action taken by Palestinians this week is a “concerning and dangerous development.”
“Such a provocative decision only furthers the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, and will carry unfortunate consequences,” he said.
“Canada has expressed these concerns directly to the Palestinian Authority for nearly four years now.”
The government’s reaction comes as the world comes to grips with the potential implications of the Palestinians’ move.
After decades of conflict in the Middle East, during which peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis went nowhere, Canadians officials and political leaders worry this week’s development could further sink hopes for a long-term solution.
As well, there are already suggestions that the Palestinians could bear the brunt of a backlash. The U.S. Congress may cut $400 million in funding to the Palestinians.
It is expected the Palestinian Authority will formally join the ICC in 60 days. However, if they persuade the court to investigate Israel for war crimes, it’s also possible — perhaps likely — that the Palestinians themselves would be investigated for the alleged war crimes of Hamas.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said Friday that the Palestinian bid for ICC membership is “understandable” and “entirely legal,” but nonetheless represents a “ramping up” of tensions that isn’t helpful to the goal of getting a negotiated settlement. “This isn’t going to solve the quagmire that we see between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It doesn’t lead to what we want to see, which is the creation of a state of Palestine with recognition from the Israelis.”
“I think it sends a signal which is counter-productive. They are free to apply but I think it is a mistake on their part and will only make the situation worse by entrenching positions,” Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said.
On Friday, the Palestinians took its formal step to submit documents to join the ICC. Afterward, Riyad Mansour, the chief Palestinian observer at the United Nations, said they seek to raise alleged crimes by Israel, including during last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip, and to seek justice for the “war crime” associated with Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory.
“This is a very significant step,” Mansour said. “It is an option that we are seeking in order to seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”
The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Palestinians are confident their application for ICC membership will be granted, given that in 2012 the UN General Assembly upgraded Palestine to a nonmember observer state. There is no guarantee, however, that the court based in The Hague would investigate Palestinian allegations of war crimes.