Al-Haq welcomes the State of Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 31 December 2014, and the submission of a Declaration that accepts the jurisdiction of the Court for the period since 13 June 2014. Following the signing of the instrument of ratification of the Statute, the State of Palestine submitted documents to the United Nations on 2 January 2015 relating to its accession. Under Article 126 of the Rome Statute, the statute will “enter into force on the first day of the month after the 60th day following the deposit” by the State of its ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. Pursuant to Article 12(3) of the Statute, the State of Palestine issued a Declaration that accepts the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes within the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since 13 June 2014.
Third State opposition to Palestinian accession
As a Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq has repeatedly called on the State of Palestine to ratify the Rome Statute. Al-Haq emphasizes the need for impartial and transparent investigations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice. The pursuit of accountability and an end to impunity is a right of all individuals, including Palestinians. In a context where Palestinian victims are systematically denied justice, the International Criminal Court is able to prosecute individuals responsible for committing international crimes where national courts have failed to do so.
It is therefore with great regret that the European Union (EU) has repeatedly discouraged Palestine from triggering the jurisdiction of the Court. As self-proclaimed supporters of the Court and the principle of universal ratification of the Rome Statute, the EU should support Palestine’s accession to the treaty as well as strengthen the Court’s ability to fulfill its mandate with respect to the OPT without obstruction. Accordingly, Al-Haq calls on European states to cooperate with the Court in any future case, in line with their legal obligations. In a similar vein, the United States (US) has staunchly opposed Palestinian accession of the Rome Statute. Indeed, under the recently passed Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015, the US will stop “economic assistance to the PA (Palestinian Authority) if they obtain membership in the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel” and restrict “aid if the PA pursues actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court.”
Al-Haq again highlights the importance of the International Criminal Court as tool to uphold international law and a mechanism for victims to seek justice. State participation in such a mechanism should not be subject to political pressure. Al-Haq stresses that the State of Palestine, like all other nations, exercised its sovereign right to enter into treaties when it acceded to the Rome Statute. The exercise of this right is not contingent on the consent of an Occupying Power nor does it undermine any future political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To the contrary, in line with the preamble of the Statute of Court, the grave crimes over which it presides per se “threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world”.
Israel Freezes Palestinian Tax Revenues
Following Palestine’s signing of the Rome Statute, Israel announced that it would freeze millions in tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority. Over $120 million are collected on a monthly basis by the Occupying Power on behalf of the PA, including from: customs duties on goods for the Palestinian market that must transit through Israel, indirect (VAT) taxation, and fuel excise taxes.
Although the tax revenues are a right of Palestinians, Israel has used the freezing of tax funds against the PA as a punitive measure in the past. In 2011, Israel froze funds when the PA became a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and when Hamas and Fatah signed a unity deal. Such actions, however, are in breach of international law. Although Israel is permitted to collect taxes as the Occupying Power, under Article 48 of the Hague Regulations, such taxes should be used to “defray the expenses of the administration of the occupied territory.” The Occupying Power is, moreover, obligated to “ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety” under Article 43 of the Hague Regulations. The tax revenue is used by the PA to provide for basic services in the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as for the salaries of government employees, who range from school teachers to security officers. By withholding funds that are critical to the basic needs of the civilian Palestinian population, Israel is breaching its duty as an Occupying Power and re-victimizing those most in need. Israel is further violating international humanitarian law, under both Article 50 of the Hague Regulations and Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as the withholding of funds indiscriminately impacts the entire Palestinian population and therefore amounts to a form of collective punishment.
The ICC, the Commission of Inquiry, and Accountability for Gaza
In light of Israel’s and the international community’s response to Palestine’s submission of the instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute, Al-Haq underscores the importance of the upcoming period in attaining justice for Palestinian victims.
Al-Haq highlights that in the backdrop of Palestine’s recent signing of the Rome Statute and other international conventions, has been the continued work of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2104 Gaza Conflict. Notably, the Declaration accepted the jurisdiction of the Court for the time period that is under the mandate of the Commission. To date, Israel has prohibited the Commission from accessing the occupied Palestinian territory. It remains critical for the international community not only to continue to support the work of the Commission, but to also pressure Israel to permit access to the oPt or facilitate entry via Egypt.
While the focus by the Commission and potentially the Court on crimes over the summer of 2014 is important, Al-Haq emphasizes that the referral of other past serious crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction will provide an avenue for justice that victims have long been denied. Moreover, full accountability will deter the commission of crimes in the future.
The list of treaties signed by President Mahmoud Abbas on 31 December 2014 can be found at: