The ICC Offers No Quick Fix to Palestine

Perjantaina, 9. tammikuuta 2015     0 kommentti(a)
Katja Creutz
Vanhempi tutkija - Globaali turvallisuus -tutkimusohjelma

The recent move by the Palestinian Authority to step up its involvement in international institutions has culminated in its bid in early January 2015 to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). As the UN has approved the Palestinian request to join the Court, the Court will exercise jurisdiction over international crimes committed in the territory of Palestine as of April 2015. This means that irrespective of nationality, persons involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in the territory of Palestine can be tried before the Court.

From this follows that the Palestinians will likely try to get the Court to investigate alleged crimes committed by Israel. These include, for example, Israeli settlement practices, but also the July-August 2014 Gaza war due to a Palestinian declaration accepting retroactive jurisdiction of the ICC. Such proceedings would evidently bring publicity to the Palestinian cause. According to the Palestinian Authority, the era of impunity that has characterized Israeli actions will now come to an end.

But there are limits to what can be achieved through the ICC. Even if the Court would open investigations into alleged Israeli crimes, its work suffers from limited resources, slowness, and non-cooperation. ICC proceedings take years, in addition to which Israeli non-cooperation would likely complicate and prolong the proceedings. Any attempts to bring Israelis before the Court would be stopped by the Israeli government, which indeed has already proclaimed that it will never render its soldiers to the ICC. Palestine as a state party to the Rome Statute will also bring along new problems to be dealt with by the Court, such as whether Palestine is a ‘state’ and how to define what territory actually comprises the contracting party.

Meanwhile the Palestinians will suffer from counteractions. Israel has already refused to pay the Palestinian Authority its tax revenues, and the United States has declared that there will be implications such as cut in financial aid due to the accession. The EU has reacted by condemning the Israeli withholding of taxes rather than by taking a stance on the Palestinian accession. Overall, it seems however that the Palestinian move to join the Court is generally taken to be counterproductive as it compromises a return to peace talks.  

There is also another side to the ICC accession, which must not be forgotten. By joining the Court, the Palestinian Authority must harmonize its own legislation in line with the Rome Statute, and seek to prevent, investigate and punish possible war criminals of its own. Whether it will stand up to this task or not, remains to be seen. For certain, in the future both the international community and the ICC will be closely watching the Palestinians.


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