The Palestinians on Wednesday officially joined the International Criminal Court during a low-profile ceremony in The Hague.
Judge Kuniko Ozaki, acting president of the court, said: “It is a pleasure for me to address this gathering at which we formally welcome the State of Palestine as the 123rd state party to the Rome Statute. By acceding to the Rome Statute, the State of Palestine has entered the growing majority of the world’s nations that have combined their efforts for the purpose of ending impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to humanity.”
Ozaki expressed hope that the accession of the “State of Palestine” would encourage more Arab countries, as well as states from the Asia/Pacific area, to give serious consideration to joining the ICC.
“From now on, the State of Palestine can take part in the decision-making of the Assembly of States parties, with equal rights to the other state parties,” she said.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki, who represented the Palestinians at the ceremony, said that “in the face of [the] great injustice our people are enduring and the repeated crimes committed against [them], Palestine has decided to seek justice, not vengeance.”
The Palestinians’ decision to join the court “should be viewed in this light,” Malki said. “Our policy reflects a commitment to international law and universal values.”
Malki reiterated the Palestinians’ pledge to cooperate with ICC prosecutors and judges to promote the principles and objectives of the court and the Rome Statute.
“Palestine remains one of the most important tests of the will and ability of the international community,” he said. “It is a test that the world cannot afford to fail.”
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat hailed the accession to the court as a “national and historic day” for the Palestinians. The decision to join, he added, marked a “qualitative transformation in the strategy of the Palestinian struggle.”
Erekat stressed that the PA leadership would not backtrack on its decision to join the court.
“Those who are afraid of facing justice should stop committing crimes,” he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said “Palestine” had no right to join the International Criminal Court because there was no Palestinian state under international law. This meant , he said, that the ICC’s chief prosecutor had erred earlier this year in accepting the Palestinian request for a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes stemming from last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.
“The Palestinian Authority government, which has established a partnership with the murderous Hamas terrorist organization that carries out war crimes like those carried out by Islamic State, is the last one that can threaten to file claims in the international court in The Hague,” Nachshon stated.
He called the Palestinian decision to join the court “political, cynical and hypocritical,” adding that Palestinian intentions at the ICC contradicted the goals of the court and would lead to a “destructive politicization” that harms the body’s stature.
He added that there was no room for the court, which was established to bring to justice people responsible for the worst crimes and atrocities in the world, to cooperate with those who merely sought to abuse its limited resources.
Unilateral Palestinian steps – first and foremost, joining the ICC – blatantly violated the basic principles agreed upon between the sides to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. These steps, he continued, highlighted the Palestinian refusal to conduct peace negotiations with Israel.
“Israel is a democracy that stands at the forefront of the global fight against terrorism while respecting international law,” Nachshon said, adding that the country’s independent and widely respected judiciary investigates allegations of criminal wrongdoing.
Hamas, meanwhile, welcomed the Palestinian decision to join the ICC as a “first step toward lifting the immunity from Israel.”
The international community should now “isolate the criminal Zionist entity” and hold Israelis accountable for war crimes against Palestinians and their holy sites, the Islamist organization said.
Hamas called on the PA to file war crimes charges against Israel for all the fighting since 2006, the construction of settlements and the West Bank security barrier, and “assaults on holy sites, Jerusalem and Palestinian prisoners.”