(photo credit: REUTERS)
The “State of Palestine” is scheduled to become a member of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Wednesday, although it remains unclear when and if it will lodge war-crime charges against Israel.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying that the Palestinian Authority had concluded all technical and legal preparations for joining the court.
Erekat pointed out that the ICC had already launched an initial investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, in addition to its “illegal” settlement construction and expansion activities.
“The legal and technical committees have been extensively working on finalizing the two files,” he said. “We will conduct all practical moves directly after Palestine is officially declared an ICC member on Wednesday.”
Under international law, “Palestine is a country under occupation. This occupied country is composed of east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Erekat told the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
The Palestinians are entitled to join up to 523 organizations and international treaties and protocols, he said.
“We have the right to exercise our rights,” he continued. “Those who fear to be brought to justice should stop committing their crimes.”
PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki is scheduled to represent the Palestinians at the ceremony in The Hague, where he is also expected to meet with the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
The PLO said on Tuesday that the decision to join the ICC “reflects Palestine’s unwavering commitment to peace, universal values, and determination to provide protection for its people and hold those responsible accountable for the crimes they have committed.”
It added that the “State of Palestine has decided to pursue an internationalization approach to achieve the long-overdue inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to put an end to decades of colonization, dispossession, forced displacement and massacres, including the 2014 aggression against the Palestinian people in the occupied Gaza Strip.”
The organization dismissed assertions that the ICC bid threatened the chances of achieving peace with Israel.
“It is war crimes and war criminals who undermine peace efforts,” the PLO said. “In fact, justice does not contradict the principle of negotiations. Both are necessary to reach a final-status agreement. By seeking accountability, Palestine is contributing to the achievement of peace in the region. Only accountability and redress can bring justice and prevent the recurrence of such crimes in the future.”
Nimmer Hammad, political advisory to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, denied reports that the PA won't file charges against Israel with the ICC regarding settlement construction following the Israeli Government's decision to release frozen tax revenues.
Hammad said that there was no "secret deal" with Israel regarding the ICC bid. "What has been published in the Israeli and Arab media is untrue," he said. "These are just rumors."