World Bulletin/News Desk
The U.S. said Wednesday that it does not believe the Palestinian Authority is eligible to accede to the Rome statute and join the International Criminal Court.
"The United States does not believe that the state of Palestine qualifies as a sovereign state and does not recognize it as such, and does not believe that it is eligible to accede to the Rome statute, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Palestine will become party to the International Criminal Court on April 1, a move that will allow Palestinians to sue Israel for war crimes.
This means the court's prosecutor could investigate the 50-day Israeli onslaught in the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014, during which more than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.
The Hague-based court handles war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It could exercise jurisdiction over such crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory. Israel, like the United States, is not a an ICC member, but its citizens could be tried on accusations of crimes on Palestinian land.
Ban announced in a letter posted to a U.N. website late on Tuesday that the Palestinians would formally become an ICC member on April 1. The United Nations is the official depositary of the Rome Statute and many other treaties.
Experts said the only apparent way to challenge the Palestinians' eligibility to be an ICC member would be in court.
"The most likely challenge would be if an Israeli national ever came before the court," said Dov Jacobs, a law professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
"A defense lawyer could try to challenge the case's legality by arguing to judges that Palestine was not a state," he said. Few scholars say that such an argument would be successful.
The Palestinians formally delivered the UN papers ratifying the Rome Statute, the legal document that established the basis of the Hague-based court, on Jan. 2, the last phase in its accession bid.
But Psaki, referring to a U.N. spokesperson's statement earlier Wednesday, said "the steps taken in fulfilling the Secretary-General's role as depository for the ICC Rome statute are purely administrative. So they are therefore not a judgment on eligibility."
"They're accepting the documents. Obviously, they can clarify more what his role is and how that will specifically work," she added.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, introduced legislation on Wednesday that seeks to block U.S. funds to the Palestinian Authority until its leaders withdraw the request to join the International Criminal Court.
"It is up to the new Republican-led Congress to move on its own so that the president does not once again circumvent clear funding restrictions. We are currently sending roughly $400 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority," Paul said in a press release.
"Certainly groups that threaten Israel cannot be allies of the U.S. I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure this president and this Congress stop treating Israel's enemies as American allies," he added.
Under U.S. law, the American government is prohibited from assisting the Palestinian Authority if it seeks ICC claims against Israel. Thus far, the Obama administration has not committed itself to taking any actions and appears disinclined to cut off aid.
Responding to a question about Paul's proposal, Psaki said, "There's no question that we will be complying with all laws as it relates to our assistance, of course," while declining to speak about the proposal.
The International Criminal Court was established in 1998 as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses such as war crimes and crimes against humanity in cases where national courts fail.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty Dec. 31, along with 16 international agreements, following the UN Security Council's rejection of a draft resolution that called for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories within three years.
In retaliation, Israel blocked the transfer of approximately $125 million in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, a move opposed by Washington.
Joining the world's permanent war crimes tribunal would allow Palestinians to refer specific Israeli actions to the prosecutor and request that they be investigated.
Palestinian sources said their focus would be the illegal Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and a military offensive last summer that killed more than 2,160 Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Ocak 2015, 10:25