(AA) – Palestinians’ entry into the International Criminal Court on Wednesday in the face of strong opposition from the U.S. and Israel deserves international support, Human Rights Watch has said.
The State of Palestine is set to become a party to the court, also known as the ICC and based in The Hague, on Wednesday in a move that will give the court a mandate dating back to June 13, 2014, to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory.
Balkees Jarrah, international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “Governments seeking to penalize Palestine for joining the ICC should immediately end their pressure, and countries that support universal acceptance of the court’s treaty should speak out to welcome its membership.
“What’s objectionable is the attempts to undermine international justice, not Palestine’s decision to join a treaty to which over 100 countries around the world are members.”
The Palestinians formally delivered the UN papers ratifying the Rome Statute – the legal document establishing the basis of the court – in January, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acting as “depository”.
– Heinous offenses
The move followed the UN Security Council’s rejection of a draft resolution calling for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories within three years.
In retaliation, Israeli government blocked the transfer of around $400 million of tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, a decision described by the UN as a violation of the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords – a 1994 deal forming the basis of the economic relations between the two parties.
Washington also voiced its opposition to a possible ICC investigation of Israeli officials over war crimes allegations, saying it did not believe that Palestine was a state and was therefore ineligible to join the tribunal.
The International Criminal Court at The Hague was established in 1998 as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses such as war crimes and crimes against humanity in cases where national courts fail.
Palestinian sources said their focus at the court would be the illegal Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and a military offensive last summer that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip.