Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat statements upon the announcement of Israel elections results, regarding Palestine pledge to the International Criminal Court (ICC) provides another opportunity to examine where the pledge currently stands. On the immediate outset, Mr. Erekat’s remarks establishing links between Netanyahu’s victory in the Israeli election and “accelerating” efforts to pressure at the ICC, are not appropriate.
These comments only spark concerns that Palestine leadership may intended to use the ICC pledge for political leverage rather than legitimate quest to accountability for grave crimes committed on Palestinian territories. Comments are also inadequate as they may hint that if and when Israel elections would have produced another option, then Palestine leadership may have opted for less action on the ICC front.
Nonetheless, its only thirteen days before Palestine Statute at the Court enter into force on 1 April 2015. The Depositary notification of Accession to the Rome Statute by the State of Palestine stipulates a period of 60 days after the deposits has occurred for the accession to enter into force. Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute on 2 January 2015, when it deposited instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General. When statute is in force, Palestine plans on “filing a complaint against Israel [..] 1 over the (2014) Gaza war and [another on] settlement activity” according to Mohammed Shtayyeh, member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who spoke to AFP on 2 March 2015 and was quoted by The Daily Star.
On 16 January 2015, ICC’s Office of The Prosecutor (OPT) opened a “Preliminary Examinations” of the situation in Palestine. Such an examination encompass a four-phase examination, assessment, verification, filtering and most importantly issues of admissibility of the alleged crimes (simply determining if such crimes can be tried in this court or not). While we don’t know at which stage-phase the Preliminary Examination is currently, Palestine government does not seem to have put together a plan of action to pursue its legal pledge at the court.
Although, Palestinian President ordered forming a committee to prepare documentation to provide the Court with, the challenge will be to organize testimonies, witnesses, collect huge amount of evidence and process them in a telling manner. Most importantly, the ICC pledge seem disconnected entirely from civil society movement and families of the victims who should have been this pledge first stop.