What changed when ‘Palestine’ joined the ICC’s Rome Statute?

Insight into the changes, or lack thereof, that come with the Palestinians officially joining the International Criminal Court.

April 2, 2015 06:00
1 minute read.
palestinian icc

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki (C) leaves the ICC at the Hague, August 5, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

With all of the ceremony, fiery rhetoric and doomsday scenarios surrounding “Palestine” becoming a party to the International Criminal Court’s governing Rome Statute, it is important to pin down what has changed so far – with part of the answer being: not much.

The Palestinians really acceded to the Rome Statute in January, and Wednesday just saw that accession formally “taking effect” because accessions and ratifications of treaties have a waiting period.

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“Palestine” can now take part in the Assembly of State Parties, which is the legislative body connected to the ICC.

The Palestinians can also now, without needing to make a temporary or ad hoc declaration, file war crimes complaints against Israelis relating to the settlements and to wars post-November 29, 2012, the day when, according to ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, “Palestine” became a state.

Also, others can now file war crimes complaints against Fatah and Hamas either regarding actions against Israel or against each other.

Bensouda, not the Palestinian Authority, will still ultimately decide whether to open full criminal investigations or file indictments, with all of her actions on the issue right now and likely for months if not years consisting of preliminary checking of whether there are jurisdictional issues that block any case from going forward.

The list of issues that could stop the whole ICC process in its tracks is long and formidable, so most of the concern now from the Israeli side is what could happen down the road in the worst-case scenario.

Ultimately, April 1 was another small notch in the “Palestine” belt on a long voyage that may never reach shore.

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