Monday, April 14, 2014

  • Monday, April 14, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
Ma'an reports:

Right-wing Israeli political parties have begun a campaign to sue president Abbas for "war crimes" at the International Criminal Court in response to the Palestinian Authority's recent decision to join international conventions and treaties.

The campaign comes amid a near breakdown in ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO, and seeks to file legal procedures against Abbas accusing him of supporting "terrorism" and aiding to terrorist organizations.

Beginning on Friday, Israeli newspapers and websites have published advertisements calling on Israeli lawyers to join the campaign led by the Israel Law Center to sue Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on charges of supporting terrorist organizations.

One of the prominent leaders of the campaign is chairman of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, who has been a vocal critic of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

An ad in the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth features president Abbas behind bars with a phrase in Arabic reading, "We will terrorize him in The Hague."
It actually says in Hebrew, "He terrorizes us the the UN....we will terrorize him in the Hague."

Palestinian officials, however, have downplayed the move, pointing out that Israel cannot pursue legal action at the international court due to its own failure to sign the treaties.

Palestinian minister of justice Ali Muhanna told Ma'an that the Israeli government had "lost balance both politically and legally."

Their response, he said, reflects the degree of rage in Israel towards the PA for attempting to join international conventions.

Muhanna confirmed that Israel "cannot engage in any legal action at the ICC because Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."

"Such legal proceedings are submitted through the ICC's Attorney General or through the UN Security Council."
It is true that Israel cannot file a complaint with the ICC's prosecutor, as it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.

But Shurat HaDin can.

From the ICC (archived):
The Prosecutor may start an investigation upon referral of situations in which there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes have been or are being committed. Such referrals must be made by a State Party or the Security Council of the United Nations, acting to address a threat to international peace and security. In accordance with the Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the Prosecutor must evaluate the material submitted to him before making the decision on whether to proceed.

In addition to State Party and Security Council referrals, the Prosecutor may also receive information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court provided by other sources, such as individuals or non-governmental organisations. The Prosecutor conducts a preliminary examination of this information in every case. If the Prosecutor then decides that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, he will request the Pre-Trial Chamber to authorise an investigation.
So, yes, Shurat HaDin - or anyone on the planet - can request that the Prosecutor indict a party that violates the provisions of the Rome Statute.

It is important to realize that the ICC will not indict if there is a functioning court system that can do the job instead. As the ICC says:

The Preamble of the Rome Statute recognises that the Court itself is but a last resort for bringing justice to the victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It therefore calls upon all States to take measures at the national level and enhance international co-operation to put an end to impunity, and reminds States of their duty to exercise criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for such crimes. Thus, the Rome Statute assigns the Court a role that is complementary to national systems.

Emphasising the primary responsibility of States to investigate and prosecute international crimes, the Statute provides that a case is inadmissible before the Court where the case is being investigated or prosecuted by a State which has jurisdiction over it, unless the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution. The Prosecutor is obliged to consider this requirement of the Statute when deciding whether or not to start an investigation.
If "Palestine" is a state - a precondition for its bringing cases to the ICC - then it presumably has a court system. If the West Bank is under occupation or disputed, than Israel's court system can be used for complaints. Either way, unless the ICC wants to become politicized, it seems unlikely that the ICC prosecutor will indict Israel just because the PLO insists it do so. (I don't think Shurat HaDin will make much headway at the ICC either, but the threat is as real as that of the PLO.)

So far most of the cases the ICC has dealt with are in Africa.

(h/t Anne)



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