Palestinians join war crimes court; angering Israel, U.S.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed on to 20 international agreements on Wednesday, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a day after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the United Nations Security Council.

Palestinians join war crimes court; angering Israel, U.S.

World Bulletin/News Desk

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed on to 20 international agreements on Wednesday, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a day after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the United Nations Security Council.

The move, which angered Israel and the United States, paves the way for the court to take jurisdiction over crimes committed in Palestinian lands and investigate the conduct of Israeli and Palestinian leaders over more than a decade of bloody conflict.

"They attack us and our land every day, to whom are we to complain? The Security Council let us down -- where are we to go?" Abbas told a gathering of Palestinian leaders in remarks broadcast on official television.

"We expected to win nine votes at the UNSC, but one member state abstained at the last minute," Abbas said, without specifying which one.

"Every demand listed in the draft resolution was in line with international law," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Abbas said he would not be deterred by the UNSC's rejection of the draft resolution, which had called for a three-year deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.

Speaking at a rally commemorating his Fatah movement's 50th anniversary, he said that the council's rejection of the bid was "not the end of the world."

"Whoever thought we would lose hope and disappoint our people is mistaken," Abbas told thousands of Fatah supporters in Ramallah.

Under the ICC rules, Palestinian membership would allow the Hague-based court to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory, without a referral from the U.N. Security Council. Israel is not a party to the Rome statute but its citizens could be tried for actions taken on Palestinian land.

The Palestinian U.N. observer mission initially announced it would deliver on Wednesday to the United Nations the signed documents to accede to the Rome Statute. It later said the delivery had been delayed and would likely take place on Friday.

According to the Rome Statute, the Palestinians would become a party to the court on the first day of the month that follows a 60-day waiting period after depositing signed and ratified documents of accession with the United Nations in New York.

In the months leading up to Tuesday's failed U.N. bid, Sweden recognised Palestinian statehood and the parliaments of France, Britain and Ireland passed non-binding motions urging their governments to do the same.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas's action would expose the Palestinians to prosecution over support for Hamas, and vowed to take steps to rebuff any potential moves against Israel.

Israel and Hamas fought a July-August war in which more than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.

"We will take steps in response and defend Israel's soldiers," Netanyahu said in a statement.

The United States said the move was of deep concern and unhelpful to peace efforts in the region.

"It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement. "Actions like this are not the answer."

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem - lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

Momentum to recognise a Palestine has built up since Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC. 

U.S. OBJECTIONS

Palestinian officials said on Tuesday American opposition made inevitable the defeat of a Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017 after no more than a year of peace negotiations.

The United States and Australia voted against the bid, while eight countries voted yes and five abstained. The Palestinians were unable to achieve a hoped-for nine votes which would have forced the U.S. to exercise its veto as one of the council's five permanent members.

Peace talks mediated by the United States collapsed in April in a dispute over Israeli settlement-building and a prisoner release deal, as well as Abbas's decision to sign on to over a dozen previous international texts Israel saw as a unilateral move the contravened the negotiations.

"We've been playing Mr. Nice Guy with negotiations since 1991, meanwhile the possibility of a two-state solution erodes," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian diplomat, told Reuters.

She added that there were no immediate plans to lodge a formal complaint at the ICC, but that Abbas's move is "a clear signal to Israel and the international community that Israel must cease and desist its war crimes, especially settlements."

Other agreements approved by Abbas included several articles on the court's jurisdiction, commitments against banned weapons and cluster munitions along with less controversial pledges on the political rights of women, navigation and the environment.

The UNSC on Tuesday rejected a draft resolution calling for an end to the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories within three years.

The motion, which was submitted on Monday by Jordan after it had been agreed upon by Arab states, failed to obtain the minimum nine votes from the 15-member council, with both the U.S. and Australia voting against the proposal.

The U.K., Nigeria, Rwanda, South Korea and Lithuania all abstained from voting, while Jordan, France, Russia, China, Argentina, Chad, Chile and Luxembourg all voted in favor.

The resolution sets the end of 2017 as the deadline for Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied territories and to declare East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders.

Direct, U.S.-brokered Palestinian-Israeli talks ground to a halt in April when Israel refused to release a group of Palestinian prisoners despite earlier pledges to do so.

Last Mod: 01 Ocak 2015, 14:03
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