Tag Archives: ICC

Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court  

26 Jun

[Prefatory Note: This post is a slightly modified version of an editorial contribution to TMS (Transcend Media Service), June 22-28, 2020).]

 

Sanctioning the International Criminal Court

 

Even Orwell would be at a loss to make sense of some of the recent anticsof leading governments. We would expect Orwell to be out-satirized by the American actions to impose penalties and sanctions on officials of the International Criminal Court, not because they are accused of acting improperly or seem guilty of some kind of corruption or malfeasance, but because they were doing their appointed jobs carefully, yet fearlessly and in accord with their proper role. Their supposed wrongdoing was to accept the request for an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by military personnel and intelligence experts of the U.S. armed forces, the Taliban, and the Afghan military. It seemed beyond reasonable doubt that frequent war crimes and crimes against humanity have occurred in Afghanistan ever since the U.S.-led regime-changing attack in 2002, followed by many years of occupation and continuous combat amid a hostile population.

 

It should be noted that Israel is equally infuriated that the ICC has affirmed the authority of its Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to investigate allegations by Palestine of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. These allegations include the unlawful transfer of Israeli civilians to establish settlements in the OPT as well as administrative structures and practices that constitute violations of the criminal prohibition on apartheid. Netanyahu, like his Washington sibling, has called for the ICC to be subject to sanctions for staging this ‘full frontal attack’ on Israeli democracy and  on ‘the Jewish people’s right to live in Israel,’ a ridiculous contention on its face. The Israeli Prime Minister seems to be contending that Israel as a sovereign state has the right to defend itself as it wishes, and should not be impeded by any obligation to respect international criminal law, or for that matter, any external source of authority, including the United Nations. Such a defiant claim, and the abusive practices and policies that have followed over many years, amounts to a crass affirmation of what I have elsewhere called ‘gangster geopolitics.’

 

Of course, Israel or the United States would be given broad latitude to make arguments in support of their innocence or their jurisdictional claims that the ICC lacked authority to prosecute, but these U.S. and Israel objections are not complaining about encroachments by the ICC on their right to mount legal defenses, but rather on the far more radical idea involving a total denial of international legal accountability. These two  rogue states refuse to accept even the authority of the ICC to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction to consider the criminal charges. This kind of repudiation of an international institution that has been acting responsibly, well within their legal framework set forth in the Rome Statute, an international treaty, represents an unprecedented and extreme expression of anti-internationalism.

 

The angry American pushback did not bother contesting the substantive allegations, but denied only the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, and attacked the audacity of this international entity for supposing that it could investigate, much less prosecute and punish the representatives of such a mighty state that, by implication, should never, no matter what, be held internationally accountable. When the ICC was investigating, and indicting, only African leaders few Western eyebrows were raised, but recently when the Court dared ever so gingerly to treat equals equally in accord with its own legal framework—the Rome Statute of 2000—it had in Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s eyes so overstepped its unspoken limits as to itself become a wrongdoer, and by this outlandish logic, making the institution and its officials legitimate targets for sanctions. What this kind of unprecedented punitive pushback against ICC officials amounts to is a notable rejection of the global rule of law when it comes to international crime and a crude geopolitical reminder to international institutions that ‘impunity’ and ‘double standards’ remain an operational principal norm of world order.

 

Speaking for the U.S. Government the response of the American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stunningly exhibited the hubris that became the American global brand well before Donald Trump disgraced the country and harmed the peoples of the world during his tenure as president. Pompeo’s reaction to the unanimous approval of the Prosecutor’s request to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan was little other than seizing the occasion to insult the ICC by describing it as “little more than a political tool employed by unaccountable international elites.” Such a statement crosses the borders of absurdity given the abundant documentation of numerous U.S. crimes in Afghanistan (the subject-matter of Chelsea Manning’s WikiLeaks 2010 disclosures that landed her in jail) and in view of the several ‘black sites’ in European countries where foreign suspects are routinely tortured, and subject to rape. Contra Pompeo, it is not the ‘international elites’ that are unaccountable but the national elites running the U.S. and Israeli governments.

 

The Pompeo dismissal of the ICC initiative was a prelude to the issuance by Trump on June 11th of an Executive Order that extended the prior denial of a U.S. visa to Bensouda, and threatened a variety of sanctioning moves directed at anyone connected with the ICC and its undertakings, including freezing assets and withholding visas, not only of ICC employees, but also of their families, on the laughable pretext that the prospective ICC investigation was creating for the United States a ‘national emergency’ in the form of an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Long before the present crisis, Trump had told the UN in a 2018 speech at the General Assembly that “..the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority..We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.”

 

As crude as are the words and deeds of the Trump crowd, there were almost equally defiant precursors, especially during the presidency of George W. Bush, an anti-ICC campaign led by none other than John Bolton who was to become Trump’s notorious National Security Advisor, and has suddenly become his antagonist-in-chief as a result of his book depicting Trump’s array of impeachable offenses. Remember that it was Bush who ‘un-signed’ the Rome Statute that Bill Clinton had signed on behalf of the U.S. on the last day of his presidency, but even he did so with the proviso that the treaty should not be submitted to the Senate for ratification and hence not be applicable, until the ICC had proved itself a responsible actor in Washington’s judgmental and biased eyes. Congress and the State Department stepped in to make sure that American military personnel would not be charged with international crimes both by threatening preventive action and entering into over 100 agreements with other countries to ensure immunity of American soldiers and officials from ICC jurisdiction, coupled with a threat to withhold aid if a government refused to agree to such a law-defying arrangement. Hillary Clinton also put her oar in the bloody water some years ago, insisting that since the U.S. was more of a global presence than other countries, it was important to be sure that its military personnel would never be brought before the ICC, no matter what their alleged offenses. The global military reach of the U.S. by way of hundreds of overseas bases, special forces covert operations, and naval patrols around the globe should enjoy immunity on a individual level, as impunity on a collective level of state responsibility. The impulse is understandable given the degree to which U.S. global security activities are so often conducted in ways that violate the most basic prohibitions of international criminal law.

 

In other words, non-accountability and double standards have deeper political roots in the bipartisan soil of American security politics than the extreme anti-internationalism of Trump. These tactics of self-exemption from legal accountability can be usefully traced back at least as far as the ‘victors’ justice’ approach to war crimes during the second world war where only the crimes of the defeated countries were subjected to accountability at Nuremberg and Tokyo, a step hailed in the West as a great advance despite its flaws. It was deeply flawed considering that arguably the most horrifying and least forgivable act during the four years of hostilities were the atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities. Is there any serious doubt that if Germany or Japan had struck cities of the Allies with the bomb, and yet lost the war, those responsible for the decisions would have been held accountable, and harshly punished?

 

In some ways as bad from a law angle was the U.S. orchestrated trial of Saddam Hussein and his closest advisors for their state crimes, although the 2003 Iraq War arose from acts of aggression by the United States and UK, and subsequent crimes during the prolonged occupation of Iraq. In other words, the idea of unconditional impunity for the crimes of the United States is complemented by self-righteous accountability for those leaders of countries defeated in war by the United States. Such ‘exceptionalism’ affront the conscience of anyone who shares the view that ideas of fairness and equality should be affirmed as core values in the application of international criminal law.   

 

As might be expected, mainstream NGOs and liberal Democrats are not happy with such an insulting and gratuitous slap in the face of international institutions that have previously proved mainly useful in going after the wrongdoing of non-Western leaders, especially in Africa. It should be remembered that African countries and their leaders were the almost exclusive targets of ICC initiatives during its first ten years, and it was from Africa that one formerly heard complaints and threats of withdrawal from the treaty, but I doubt that ideas of sanctioning the ICC ever entered the imaginary of the understandable African displeasure at an implicit ethos of ‘white crimes don’t matter’!

 

David Sheffer, the American diplomat who headed the U.S. delegation that negotiated the Rome Statute on behalf of the Clinton presidency, but who was careful to preserve American geopolitical interests in the process, expressed the liberal opposition to Trump’s arrogant style of pushback with these words: “The [Trump] Executive Order will go down in history as a shameful act of fear and retreat from the rule of law.” There is an element of hypocrisy present in such a denunciation due to withholding the pre-Trump record of one-sided imposition of international criminal law.  True enough, it was the prior Republican president that had locked horns with the ICC some years ago, but the ambivalence of Congress and the Clintons is part of a consistent American insistence of what I would label as ‘negative exceptionalism,’ that is, the right to act internationally without accountability while taking a hard line on holding others accountable; impunity for the powerful, accountability for the weak. It used to be that American exceptionalism was associated with a commitment to decency, human rights, the rule of law, and a visionary approach to world order that was missing elsewhere, and could serve as a catalyst for peace and justice in the world. Such self-glorification, which was never deserved or appropriate, has long since been forfeited at the altar of global geopolitics, whose players make up the rules as they go along, while showing contempt for the legal constraints that are deemed suitable for the regulation of their adversaries.

 

Finally, it should be appreciated that while geopolitical actors can get away with murder, their rogue behavior is a precedent for all states, and weakens and undermines what fragile procedures exist to uphold the most basic norms of international law.

 

 

Investigating Israeli Criminality at the International Criminal Court (ICC)

31 Mar

Investigating Israeli Criminality at the International Criminal Court (ICC)

 

[Prefatory Note: What is posted below is an Amicus Brief submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on 16 March 2020 in the jurisdictional phase of a proceeding in which to initiate such a legal proceeding and whether the ICC has jurisdiction, that is, legal authority to investigate and possibly prosecute such alleged. As the Prosecutor indicated, the facts at her disposal indicate a basis for accepting Palestine’s request forPearce  an investigation of alleged Israeli criminal conduct on three clusters of issues: (1) military operations in Gaza in 2014, (2) unlawful aspects of Israeli settlements, aand (3) use of excessive force against protesters at the Gaza border in The Great March of Return. The focus of this procedural phase is whether Palestine is ‘a State’ in relation also suggest evidence of criminal behavior by Hamas that she believes within her jurisdictional orbit. The ICC has deferred further proceedings in view of the COVIS-19 pandemic, which has led to protests from concerned NGO groups and activists. The brief was prepared with major research assistance from Pearce Clancy and Susan Power of Al Haq for which I am extremely grateful. In the background is the undisguised and bitter hostility of the Government of Israel and its political leaders to Palestine for seeking an international assessment of their contention of Israeli criminality almost as if a legal challenge to Israeli impunity is itself immoral. The United States vents its fury and threats in an analogous manner at the ICC because it had the temerity to agree to investigate charges of U.S, war crimes in Afghanistan. There will be no global rule of law so long as geopolitical actors are made the beneficiaries of double standards in the application and implementation of international law. Earlier the ICC was almost solely preoccupied with allegations involving Africa, and there was an understandable African complaint that its countries were being singled out, while criminality of the West was not even investigated. While this turn by the ICC angering Israel and the United States delegitimizes the ICC for the hegemonic West, it lends the ICC much needed legitimacy among many non-Western States and most human rights NGOs.]   

 

 

Original: English

No.: ICC-01/18
Date: 16 March 2020

Before:

Judge Péter Kovács, Presiding Judge
Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut
Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou

SITUATION IN THE STATE OF PALESTINE

Professor Richard Falk

PRE-TRIAL CHAMBER I

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Public
Amicus Curiae Submissions Pursuant to Rule 103

Source:

No. ICC-01/18 1/29 16 March 2020

Document to be notified in accordance with regulation 31 of the Regulations of the Court to:

The Office of the Prosecutor

Ms Fatou Bensoua, Prosecutor
Mr James Stewart, Deputy Prosecutor

Legal Representatives of the Victims

Unrepresented Victims

The Office of Public Counsel for Victims

Paolina Massida

States’ Representatives

The competent authorities of the State of Palestine

REGISTRY

Counsel for the Defence

Legal Representatives of the Applicants

Unrepresented Applicants (Participation/Reparation)

The Office of Public Counsel for the Defence

Amicus Curiae

  • ·
  • ·
  • ···
  • ····
  • ·

Professor John Quigley
Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers
The European Centre for Law and Justice
Professor Hatem Bazian
The Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust
The Czech Republic
The Israel Bar Association
Professor Richard Falk
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation
The Lawfare Project, the Institute for NGO Research, Palestinian Media Watch, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
MyAQSA Foundation
Professor Eyal Benvenisti
The Federal Republic of Germany Australia
UK Lawyers for Israel, B’nai B’rith UK, the International Legal Forum, the Jerusalem Initiative and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
The Palestinian Bar Association
Prof. Laurie Blank, Dr. Matthijs de Blois, Prof. Geoffrey Corn, Dr. Daphné Richemond- Barak, Prof.

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No. ICC-01/18

2/29

16 March 2020

Gregory Rose, Prof. Robbie Sabel, Prof. Gil Troy and Mr. Andrew Tucker The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

Professor Asem Khalil and Assistant Professor Halla Shoaibi
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center Todd F. Buchwald and Stephen J. Rapp

Intellectum Scientific Society
The International Commission of Jurists
Dr. Robert Heinsch and Dr. Giulia Pinzauti
The Republic of Austria
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers
The Office of Public Counsel for the Defence
The Honourable Professor Robert Badinter, the Honourable Professor Irwin Cotler, Professor David Crane, Professor Jean-François Gaudreault- DesBiens, Lord David Pannick and Professor Guglielmo Verdirame
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Mankind, Al- Mezan Center for Human Rights and Aldameer Association for Human Rights
The Federative Republic of Brazil Professor Malcolm N Shaw
Hungary
Ambassador Dennis Ross
The International Federation for Human Rights, No Peace Without Justice, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and REDRESS Professor William Schabas International-Lawyers.org
The League of Arab States
Me Yael Vias Gvirsman
The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad
The Israel Forever Foundation
Dr. Frank Romano
Dr. Uri Weiss
The Republic of Uganda

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No. ICC-01/18 3/29

16 March 2020

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Registrar Counsel Support Section

Peter Lewis

Victims and Witnesses Unit Detention Section

Victims Participation and Reparations Other Section
Philipp Ambach

No. ICC-01/18 4/29 16 March 2020

  1. Introduction
  1. Following the submission of an application for leave to submit as part of the present proceedings,1 and its subsequent acceptance by this Chamber,2 this amicus curiae submission will address the question directed to the Chamber, namely that of the territorial jurisdiction of the Court in a future investigation into the Situation in Palestine.3
  2. Mindful of the fact that a pronouncement by the Chamber on the question of jurisdiction at this stage is controversial,4 this amicus argues that should a ruling be made at this stage, it must recognise the jurisdiction of the State of Palestine as pertaining to the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The legal argument will be presented in two stages. Section II will deal with the underlying question of Palestinian statehood under international law, noted as a prerequisite for invoking the jurisdiction of this Court by the State of Palestine, arguing that the Court should be satisfied that Palestine’s status as a State for the purposes of the Court’s statutory framework allows exercise of such authority, and that the principles of interpretation by which the Court operates mandates such a conclusion. Section III will regard the question of statehood as resolved, and address the territorial jurisdiction of each component of

1 Richard Falk, Request for Leave to File Submission Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (13 February 2020) ICC-01/18-24.

2 ICC, Decision on Applications for Leave to File Observations Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (20 February 2020) ICC-01/18, para 55, 56.

3 See ICC, Prosecution request pursuant to article 19(3) for a ruling on the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine (22 January 2020) ICC-1/18-12 (henceforth the “Request”) at para 220.

4 ICC, Request Under Regulation 46(3) of the Regulations of the Court: Decision on the “Prosecution’s Request for a Ruling on Jurisdiction under Article 19(3) of the Statute (6 September 2018) ICC-RoC46(3)-01/18, para 27; ICC, Partially Dissenting Opinion of Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut (6 September 2018) ICC- RoC46(3)-01/18-37-Anx; see, however, Anthony Abato, ‘False Positives, False Negatives, and Prosecutorial Discretion regarding the Jurisdiction of the ICC (9 March 2020), available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/false- positives-false-negatives-and-prosecutorial-discretion-regarding-the-jurisdiction-of-the-icc/: “When faced with difficult jurisdictional questions, such as those in the Situation in the State of Palestine, the PTC should not shy away. It now has the opportunity to conduct an open, participatory proceeding capable of providing legal certainty to those involved. Ultimately, if the PTC finds in favour of the Prosecutor, its ruling will remove the perceived arbitrariness that may otherwise unduly cast a shadow over the Prosecutor’s decision to investigate.”

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No. ICC-01/18 5/29 16 March 2020

occupied Palestinian territory, arguing that the Court’s jurisdiction extends to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

  1. The Issue of Statehood
  1. While recognising the scope set by the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) within which amici curiae have been requested to abide, I concur with the recognition by the Prosecutor that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction over the territory belonging to the State of Palestine is contingent upon the legitimacy of that State’s claim to statehood.5 Accordingly, and as outlined in the Request for Leave pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence,6 this section will provide a brief analysis of the question of Palestinian statehood within the framework of the Rome Statute.7
  2. It is submitted that as a matter of substantive international law, Palestinian statehood has been resolved. While not indicative of statehood in and of itself,8 the recognition thereof by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in Resolution 67/19 of 4 December 20129 is indicative of widespread academic opinion and State practice.10 Also highly relevant, the

5 Request at para 7; see also Article 12, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (adopted 17 July 1998, entry into force 1 July 2002) 2187 UNTS 3 (henceforth the “Rome Statute”).

6 ICC, Rules of Evidence and Procedure (2nd edn, 2013).
7 See Richard Falk, Request for Leave to File Submission Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and

Evidence (13 February 2020) ICC-01/18-24, at para 4.

8 Valentina Azarov and Chantal Meloni, ‘Disentangling the Knots: A comment on Ambos’ ‘Palestine, ‘Non- Member Observer’ Status and ICC Jurisdiction’’ (27 May 2014) EJIL:Talk!, available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/disentangling-the-knots-a-comment-on-ambos-palestine-non-member-observer-status- and-icc-jurisdiction/#more-10954; it has been compellingly argued that the modern Palestinian State long pre- dates recognition by the General Assembly, see, inter alia, Victor Kattan, ‘Muddying the Waters: A Reply to Kay and Kern on the Statehood of Palestine and the ICC – Part I’ (9 August 2019) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2019/08/09/muddying-the-waters-a-reply-to-kay-and-kern-on-the-statehood-of-palestine- and-the-icc-part-i/; Victor Kattan, ‘Muddying the Waters Still Further: A Response to Steven Kay and Joshua Kern’ (20 August 2019) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2019/08/20/muddying-the-waters-still- further-a-response-to-steven-kay-and-joshua-kern/.

9 UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19 (4 December 2012) UN Doc. A/RES/67/19 at para 2: “[d]ecides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status” (emphasis added).

10 See, inter alia, John Quigley, ‘ICC and Palestine Symposium: General Assembly Resolution 67/19 and Palestine as a State before the ICC’ (5 February 2020) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2020/02/05/icc-and-palestine-symposium-general-assembly-resolution-67-19-and- palestine-as-a-state-before-the-icc/, arguing that Resolution 67/19 was conclusive; also John Quigley, ‘Palestine is a State so the Consent Declaration is a Valid Basis for Investigation by the ICC’ in Richard H Steinberg (ed), Contemporary Issues Facing the International Criminal Court (Bril Nijhoff, 2016).

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State of Palestine has been diplomatically recognised by a reported 140 States,11 has been afforded full membership of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),12 inducted into the Court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP),13 recognised and been reviewed by UN human rights treaty bodies, including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 201814, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August 201915, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in January 202016, and soon the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT)17, as being capable of conferring jurisdiction under the relevant international human rights treaties, while it has further acceded to myriad international

11 As reported in UN General Assembly, Report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (4 August 2019) UN Doc A/74/35, para 17.

12 UNESCO, General Conference admits Palestine as UNESCO Member (31 October 2011), available at:

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single- view/news/general_conference_admits_palestine_as_unesco_member/; UNESCO, Records of the General Conference, 36th session (25 October-10 November 2011) VI General Resolutions, at para 76; note also that considerable weigh has been put on Palestine’s status as a UNESCO member, see Jure Vidmar, ‘Palestine v United States: Why the ICJ does not need to decide whether Palestine is a state’ (22 November 2018) available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/palestine-v-united-states-why-the-icj-does-not-need-to-decide-whether-palestine-is- a-state/; William Schabas, ‘Relevant Depositary Practice of the Secretary-General and its Bearing on Palestinian Accession to the Rome Statute’ (3 November 2011) PhD studies in human rights, available at: http://humanrightsdoctorate.blogspot.com/2011/11/relevant-depositary-practice-of.html; Michael Kearney, ‘The Situation in Palestine’ (5 April 2012) Opinio Juris, available at: http://opiniojuris.org/2012/04/05/the-situation- in-palestine/.

13 ICC, Welcoming ceremony for a new State Party: State of Palestine (1 April 2015).

14 See Article 25, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (adopted 18 December 1979, entry into force 3 September 1981) 1249 UNTS 13: “The present Convention shall be open for signature by all States”; see also CEDAW, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (25 July 2018) UN Doc CEDAW/C/PSE/CO/1.

15 See Article 17(1), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (adopted 7 March 1966, entry into force 4 January 1969) 660 UNTS 195 (henceforth “ICERD”): “This Convention is open for signature by any State Member of the United Nations or member of any of its specialized agencies, by any State Party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and by any other State which has been invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become a Party to this Convention”; CERD, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (20 September 2019) UN Doc CERD/C/PSE/CO/1-2; see also decision at CERD, Inter-State communication submitted by the State of Palestine against Israel (12 December 2019) UN Doc CERD/C/100/5 (henceforth the “CERD Decision”).

16 See Article 46, Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted 20 November 1989, entry into force 2 September 1990) 1577 UNTS 3: “The present Convention shall be open for signature by all States”; see also CRC, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (6 March 2020) UN Doc CRC/C/PSE/CO/1.

17 Article 25, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (adopted 10 December 1984, entry into force 26 June 1987) 1465 UNTS 85: “This Convention is open for signature by all States”; see also Palestine’s State Report: State of Palestine, Initial report submitted by the State of Palestine under article 19 of the Convention, due in 2015(26 August 2019) UN Doc CAT/C/PSE/1.

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treaties and human rights instruments, including the Apartheid Convention18, Rome Statute,

the four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.19

  1. Nonetheless, an analysis as to statehood appears to be necessary, given the prerequisite

found in Article 12, as well as the corpus of argumentation outlined in amici applications in preparation of the current proceedings. That said, it is submitted that the PTC is bound to consider this issue as a matter of procedural, as opposed to substantive law. I agree with the Prosecutor in her opinion that the determination to be made by the Court is not whether Palestine constitutes a State as a matter of general international law, but solely for the purposes of the Court’s jurisdiction under the Rome Statute.20

  1. The PTC therefore need not consider what have been dubbed the “Montevideo Criteria”21 of statehood.22 Instead, the PTC need only consider whether the referral submitted by the State of Palestine23 is consistent with the terms of Article 12(2)(a) of the Rome Statute, having reference to the accepted rules of interpretation outlined in the Vienna Convention

18 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (adopted 30 November 1973, entry into force 18 July 1976) UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3068(XXVIII).

19 Request, para 127; note also Victor Kattan, ‘The Implications of Joining the ICC after Operation Protective Edge’ (2014) 44(1) Journal of Palestine Studies 63: “The ability to sign, ratify, and accede to treaties is important because it is considered to be one of the essential attributes of statehood.”

20 Request, para 42, 111; Alain Pellet, ‘The Effects of Palestine’s Recognition of the International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction’ (2010) 6, available at: https://iccforum.com/media/background/gaza/2010-02-18_Pellet- Memo_(English_Translation).pdf.

21 Article 1, Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (adopted 26 December 1933, entry into force 26 December 1934): “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states.”

22 In any case, the Montevideo Criteria should not be viewed as a rigid yardstick with which to judge statehood, on this, and the context in which the Convention was drafted, see Quigley op cit (2020); see also James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2007) at 437: “… the formula represented in the Montevideo Convention is considered to a certain extent insufficient and outdated, even hackneyed.”

23 State of Palestine, Referral by the State of Palestine Pursuant to Articles 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute (15 May 2018).

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on the Law of Treaties,24 and the object and purpose of the Rome Statute, namely to end

impunity for international crimes.25

  1. As the Prosecutor has compellingly argued, the status of a “State” within the context of

Articles 12(1), 12(2), and 125(3) of the Rome Statute, being consistent throughout, has been concretely achieved by the deposit of Palestine’s instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General.26 The so-called “all States” formula embedded in the framework of the Rome Statute27 necessarily links the eligibility criteria for accession to determinations of the General Assembly.28 Thus, accession to the Rome Statute contains an implicit “statehood check”, whereby the Secretary-General confirms whether the entity attempting to accede constitutes a State under international law. While deference to the pronouncements of the General Assembly is controversial to some observers, it must be stressed that this approach is consistent with previous Court practice regarding Palestine,29 and is desirable to avoid a situation in which the final pronouncement on statehood for the purposes of a given instrument falls entirely on the Secretary-General.30

  1. The question, therefore, is not whether Palestine constitutes a State as such, but whether, through its accession to the Rome Statute, as well as other instruments and fora, it has

24 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (adopted 23 May 1969, entry into force 27 January 1980) 1155 UNTS 331 (henceforth the “VCLT”).

25 Request, para 29: “to end impunity and ensure that the Court’s jurisdiction is triggered responsibly and lawfully”; ICC, Separate Opinion of Judge Péter Kovács (27 January 2016) ICC-01/15-12-Anx-Corr, para 65: “a policy running against the basic philosophy of the ICC, namely to end impunity”; Preamble, Rome Statute: “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished”; Michail Vagias, The Territorial Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (Cambridge University Press, 2014) 77: “… its role is also geared towards preventing or deterring future atrocities”; interestingly it is worth noting Vidmar’s contention, op cit, in the context of the International Court of Justice: “… regulating an entity’s legal status is clearly not the object and purpose of the treaty” (emphasis added).

26 Request, para 103.
27 Article 125(3), Rome Statute.

28 See Treaty Section, UN Office of Legal Affairs, Summary of Practice of the Secretary-General as Depositary of Multilateral Treaties (1999) UN Doc. ST/LEG/7/Rev.1, paras 81-83.

29 While the former Prosecutor refrained from opening an investigation due to concerns of jurisdiction, his analysis suggests that his Office’s position would have been different had the General Assembly passed Resolution 67/19 by that time, see Office of the Prosecutor, Situation in Palestine (3 April 2012) at paras 5, 7, available at: https://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/9B651B80-EC43-4945-BF5A- FAFF5F334B92/284387/SituationinPalestine030412ENG.pdf.

30 Request, para 109.

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9.

attained the full suite of rights and obligations found therein; here, the answer should be in the affirmative, given Palestine’s acceptance as both a State Party and functional member of the international community. This approach, referred to as the “functionalist approach” has a strong basis elsewhere in the field of international law,31 and has been widely endorsed, explicitly or otherwise, by commentators as the appropriate lens for the Court.32 This was appreciated recently by CERD in its jurisdictional finding on the Inter-State Complaint submitted by Palestine, which did find it necessary to extend its analysis beyond Palestine’s status, and functional capacity to act, as a State Party to ICERD.33

Moreover, it should be stressed that this approach is not merely consistent with the object and purpose of the Rome Statute, but is arguably mandated by the “General Rule” of interpretation.34 As previously affirmed by the Court, this judicial body is not permitted to decline to draw on a particular element of the “General Rule”,35 and should interpret all sources of law in light of the object and purpose of the Rome Statute,36 while doing what is necessary to avoid results that are unreasonable, or produce absurdities and unjust results.37 The Rome Statute thus requires its interpretation to be carried out in light of internationally

31 While not directly applicable to the Rome Statute framework, the best example of this is the so-called “Vienna Formula”, stemming from Article 81, VCLT, see: Schabas op cit; on the prevalence of functionalism elsewhere, see Pellet op cit, para 9.

32 See, inter alia: Valentina Azarova and Triestino Mariniello, ‘Why the ICC Needs a ‘Palestine Situation’ (More than Palestine Needs the ICC): On the Court’s Potential Role(s) in the Israeli-Palestinian Context’ (2017) 11(1) Diritti Umani e Diritto Internazionale (Human Rights and International Law) 152-154; Pellet op cit; Kai Ambos, ‘Palestine, UN Non-Member Observer Status and ICC Jurisdiction’ (6 May 2014) EJIL:Talk!, available at: https://www.ejiltalk.org/palestine-un-non-member-observer-status-and-icc-jurisdiction/; Michael Kearney, ‘Palestine and the International Criminal Court: Asking the Right Question’ in Richard H Steinberg (ed), Contemporary Issues Facing the International Criminal Court (Bril Nijhoff, 2016) 31-35; Yuval Shany, ‘In Defence of Functional Interpretation of Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute: A Response to Yaël Ronen’ (2010) 8 Journal of International Criminal Justice 329; Al-Haq, Position paper on issues arising from the PA submission of a Declaration to the Prosecutor of the ICC under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute (14 December 2009).

33 CERD Decision, para 3.9. 34 Article 31(1), VCLT.

35 ICC, Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Case of the Prosecutor v Germain Katanga: Judgement pursuant to article 74 of the Statute (7 March 2014) ICC-01/04-01/07, para 44.

36 Ibid., 47.
37 ICC, Situation in the Central African Republic in the Case of the Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo (21

March 2016) ICC-01/05-01/18, paras 80-81.

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recognised human rights norms,38 which must necessarily include the long recognised right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, a jus cogens norm,39 which gives rise to obligations erga omnes, binding on all States.40 As certain acts by the State of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory create obligations of such a character,41 this must be considered in the PTC’s interpretative calculus. The Prosecutor alludes to this in her Request, wherein she notes that “[i]t would appear contrary to the principle of effectiveness42 and good faith to allow an entity to join the ICC but then to deny the rights and obligations of accession … the Statute does not provide for or regulate the implications of a negative determination of statehood by the Court.”43

  1. It is useful to dwell on the implications of a negative determination of Palestine’s standing as a State Party before the Court: “[w]ould a referral and the deposit of the instrument of accession … be deemed invalid? Would that State Party be expelled from the Court? Or would it become a sui generis State Party which can still participate and vote in the ASP … even though the Court may not have jurisdiction over such a State?”44 If such a perverse approach were adopted, Palestine would be rendered as akin to a “legal black hole”, despite its accession.45

38 Article 21(3), Rome Statute.

39 Antonio Cassese, International Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2005) 65; Malcolm N Shaw, International Law (6th edn, Cambridge University Press, 2008) 808; James Crawford, ‘Opinion: Third Party Obligations with respect to Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories’ (25 January 2012) para 26, available at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/tucfiles/LegalOpinionIsraeliSettlements.pdf.

40 ICJ, Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia [South West Africa] Notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (Advisory Opinion) (1971) para 29 (henceforth the “Namibia Opinion”).

41 ICJ, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall (Advisory Opinion) (2004) para 155-156 (henceforth the “Wall Opinion”).

42 Defined in ICC, Joint Concurring Opinion of Judges Eboe-Osuji,Morrison, Hofmanski and Bossa (6 May 2019) ICC-02/05-01/09-397-Anx1 at para 419: “a principle which gives preference to that interpretation of a treaty which best promotes its major purposes”, quoting Myers McDougal and Richard Gardner, ‘The Veto and the Charter: An Interpretation for Survival’ (1951) 60 Yale Law Journal 261.

43 Request, para 114. 44 Ibid.
45 Shany, op cit, 337.

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  1. It would therefore appear that, in any event, a negative determination by the PTC at this stage would be manifestly incompatible with the object and purpose of the Rome Statute and the inclusive goals of the Court. As such, attempting to deviate from the functionalist approach, outlined above and adopted by CERD, and to apply the so-called “Montevideo criteria”, would seem an ultra vires act by the Court, as well as being an overly rigid and ill-advised step inconsistent with “the basic philosophy” of the Court which “might result in an increase in the impunity gap.”46

III. The Issue of Territorial Jurisdiction

  1. The issue of statehood so resolved, the amicus observations now turn to the territorial scope of a potential future investigation.47 It is submitted that the same principles and rules of interpretation that guide the Chamber in its determination on the issue of Palestinian statehood should also apply here. With due regard for the “General Rule”, the principle of effectiveness, and due regard for internationally recognised norms of human rights, particularly the collective right of self-determination, it is clear that to provide a meaningful method with which to end impunity for international crimes, the scope of a future investigation by the Prosecutor should encompass the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, as noted by the Prosecutor, it is appropriate to stress that a determination as to jurisdictional scope here should not be conflated with a delineation of the Palestinian territorial claim as such.48
  2. While an extended analysis of the events leading to the beginning of the occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory in 1967 does not require reiterating here,49 and will

46 Kovács, op cit, para 65.

47 See Request, para 190.

48 Ibid., 192.

49 For helpful narration, see Ardi Imseis, ‘On the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (2003) 44(1) Harvard International Law Journal 69-85; for events prior to 1948, see also Victor

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doubtlessly be provided in detail by other amici, it is useful at this stage to recall the status of the occupied Palestinian territory as occupied since 1967, as it represents the current Palestinian State’s territorial claim.50 This claim has been bolstered51 by the territorial nature of the Palestinian right to self-determination, including permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources, as repeatedly recognised by, inter alia, the UN General Assembly,52 the Human Rights Council,53 and the ICJ.54 Accordingly, just as the Chamber is bound to consider this right in its interpretation on the issue of statehood, it should be considered during its analysis as to the extent of its jurisdiction.

  1. Moreover, the legal importance of the maintenance of the character of the occupied Palestinian territory, encompassing the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, as a single territorial unit, has been repeatedly recognised by the international community, including by the UN Security Council,55 and General Assembly.56 It is further

Kattan, From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891- 1949 (Pluto Press, 2009).

50 See ICJ, Written Statement Submitted by Palestine (30 January 2004) para 547; State of Palestine, Referral by the State of Palestine Pursuant to Articles 13(a) and 14 of the Rome Statute (15 Mary 2018), fn 4.

51 On this see Request, para 194, fn. 612, quoting Robert Jennings and Arthur Watts, Oppenheim’s International Law Vol. 1, Peace: Parts 2 to 4 (Longman, 1996) para 274: “[i]t is clear that the injection of a legal principle of self-determination into the law about acquisition and loss of territorial sovereignty is both important and innovative. State and territory are, in the traditional law, complementary terms. Normally only a state can possess a territory, yet that possession of a territory is the essence of the definition of state. The infusion of the concept of the rights of a ‘people’ into this legal scheme is therefore a change which is more fundamental than at first appears”; see also Crawford op cit, para 29: “In light of the principle of self-determination, sovereignty and title in an occupied territory are not vested in the occupying power but remain with the population under occupation. As such, Israel does not acquire a legal right to or interest in land in the West Bank purely on the basis of its status as an occupier.”

52 See, inter alia, UN General Assembly Resolutions: 2649 (XXV) (30 November 1970) para 5; 67/19 (4 December 2012) UN Doc A/RES/67/19, para 1,4; 70/15 (4 December 2015) UN Doc A/RES/70/15, para 21(b); 71/23 (15 December 2016) UN Doc A/RES/71/23, para 22(b); 72/14 (7 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/72/14, para 24(b); 793/96 (18 December 2018), preamble; 73/19 (5 December 2018) UN Doc A/RES/73/19, para 22(b); 73/255 (15 January 2019) UN Doc A/RES/73/255 para 1; 73/158 (9 January 2019) UN Doc A/RES/73/158.

53 Most recently, UN Human Rights Council Resolution 40/24 (17 April 2019) UN Doc A/HRC/RES/40/24. 54 Wall Opinion, para 122.

55 The Security Council declared any attempts to alter the “physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure, or status” of the oPt as being of “no legal validity” and “a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention … and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace”, UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1 March 1980) UN Doc S/RES/465, para 5; see also Resolution 2334 (23 December 2016) UN Doc S/RES/2334, para 3.

56 UN General Assembly Resolutions: 70/15 (4 December 2015) UN Doc A/RES/70/15, para 11; 71/23 (15 December 2016) UN Doc A/RES/71/23 para 12; 72/14 (7 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/72/14 para 13; 73/19 (5 December 2018) UN Doc A/RES/73/19 para 13; 74/11 (9 December 2019) UN Doc A/RES/74/11, para 8.

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necessary to clarify that Palestine’s claim to its territory, or indeed that of any State, is not contingent on having “defined and settled boundaries”57 or the exclusive authority to exercise jurisdiction, of any kind, therein.

  1. Nonetheless, due to the idiosyncratic legal complexities imposed by Israel upon each of the three geographic domains of the occupied Palestinian territory (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), as part of the former’s campaign of strategic fragmentation imposed upon the Palestinian people as a whole,58 it is worth considering each territorial domain so as to clarify their specific relationship to the overall territorial claims of the State of Palestine, and as such to the scope of the Court’s jurisdiction.
  2. West Bank
  3. As noted above, the West Bank has been under belligerent Israeli military occupation since the 1967 War,59 which triggered the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention60 and Hague Regulations61 throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. Later, in 1993, a process began whereby the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the State of Israel produced what became known as the Oslo Accords, which divided the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C.62 For the purposes of this analysis, it should be noted that a core aspect of these

57 Shaw, quoted in Request, fn. 608.

58 On this, see throughout UN ESCWA, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1, (2017) UN Doc E/ESCWA/ECRI/2017/1; see also, Al-Haq, et al, Joint Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Israel’s Seventeenth to Nineteenth Periodic Reports (10 November 2019), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/cached_uploads/download/2019/11/12/joint-parallel-report-to-cerd-on-israel-s-17th-19th- periodic-reports-10-november-2019-final-1573563352.pdf.

59 Wall Opinion, para 73, 101.
60 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (adopted 12 August 1949,

entry into force 21 October 1950) 75 UNTS 287 (henceforth the “Fourth Geneva Convention”).

61 Hague Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and Its Annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land) (adopted 18 October 1907, entry into force 26 January 1910) (henceforth the “Hague Regulations”).

62 See Request, para 68.
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agreements is the exclusion of all Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory from

Palestinian criminal jurisdiction.63

  1. A key component of the occupation’s machinery has been the construction and maintenance

of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.64 These settlements have largely been constructed on appropriated Palestinian land, which is typically seized under the pretext of “military necessity”, or through its designation, by the Israeli occupying authorities, as “State” or abandoned land65, and are predominantly located in Area C, which the Oslo Accords identify as being subject to Israeli jurisdictional control.

  1. It is submitted, in line with the analysis put forward by the Prosecutor, that the Oslo process, constitutive of “Oslo I” and “Oslo II”, does not create a legal barrier or challenge to the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Palestine, and therefore the Court.66 First, the Oslo Accords constitute a “special agreement” for the purposes of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as such cannot deprive the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights and protections under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.67 Accordingly, the fact that the PLO has entered into such agreements with the State of Israel may not be interpreted as having relinquished the right of self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources inherent to the Palestinian people, nor can it be interpreted as constituting a renunciation of any other rights conferred upon the protected population.

63 Ibid., para 70.

64 For a timeline of the Israeli settler enterprise, see UN Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East-Jerusalem (7 February 2013) UN Doc A/HRC/22/63, para 24-30.

65 Ibid., 20.
66 See Request, para 183.

67 Articles 7, Fourth Geneva Convention; Request, para 186; see also Basheer AlZoughbi, ‘The Operation of the Oslo Treaties and the Pacific Mechanisms of Conflict Resolution under Public International Law’ (2013) 45(2) Peace Research 39-40: “The transfer of power that was introduced in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords as a result of the agreements concluded between the PLO and Israel changed neither the status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory nor that of protected persons who were being deprived of the benefits of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on a continuous basis … Thus, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has legal obligations to honour the rights and ensure the welfare of those under occupation.”

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  1. Moreover, as also recognised by the Prosecutor, the provisions of Oslo II regarding the regulation of the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) relates solely to enforcement, as opposed to prescriptive jurisdiction, i.e. the ability to enforce, as opposed to create, law.68 Stahn, referenced extensively by the Prosecutor,69 draws this distinction most clearly: noting the separation of jurisdiction into these two categories, he contends that “[a]ny other conception would have detrimental consequences for international law. It would imply that a state that is unable to exercise jurisdiction over specific parts of its territory would lose its ability to investigate or prosecute offenders or to seize an international jurisdiction with the power to try offenders. This would create significant accountability gaps” (emphasis added).70 Crucially, the ability to confer jurisdiction on the Court is a matter of prescriptive jurisdiction.71

20.Stahn further observes that “[b]ilateral immunity agreements that award exclusive jurisdiction over specific categories of persons to another state do not extinguish the general capacity of the contracting state to allocate jurisdiction to another entity. If anything, such agreements demonstrate the inherent or pre-existing competence of the State to exercise such jurisdiction.”72 As such, the inability of the PNA to punish, prosecute, or otherwise enforce its laws against Israelis does not preclude the Court from investigating, charging,

68 Request, para 184; see also Ambos op cit: “Oslo II did not, indeed could not, take from Palestine the (prescriptive) jurisdiction over its territory but only limited the exercise of this jurisdiction”.

69 See, in particular, Request, fn. 581-582.

70 Carsten Stahn, ‘Response: The ICC: Pre-Existing Jurisdictional Treaty Regimes, and the Limits of the Neo Dat Quod Non Habet Doctrine – A Reply to Michael Newton’ (2016) 49(2) Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 450.

71 Ambos op cit: “… pursuant to Oslo II, the PNA must not exercise jurisdiction over Israelis but it may delegate this jurisdiction to an international court. Otherwise, Oslo II would operate as a bar to the international prosecution of possible international crimes by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, a result hardly compatible with the ICC’s mission and the underlying duty to prosecute international core crimes.”

72 Stahn op cit, 451, also 451-452: “If a state has conferred jurisdiction to the ICC, despite a previous bilateral treaty arrangement limiting domestic jurisdiction, the resolution of conflicting obligations becomes an issue of complementarity and cooperation. The ICC is not bound by the agreement of the State Party. It does therefore not have to apply the rule lex specialis derrogat lex generalis. It will instead have to assess whether there are any domestic investigations or not. In case of inaction, the ICC is generally competent to proceed with its own investigations and prosecution.”

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or prosecuting such individuals for international crimes committed within the occupied

Palestinian territory, including in Area C in the occupied West Bank.

  1. Alternatively, Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, outlines the argument73 that grave breaches of international humanitarian law, such as the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements, which have been recognised by the ICJ as amounting to violations of jus cogens norms giving rise to obligations erga omnes,74 create obligations on all States to take positive action to try or extradite those suspected of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.75 This obligation, it is argued, has been recognised as binding the PNA, without prejudice to the existence, or supposed non-existence, of a State of Palestine. As such, the purported inability of the PNA to fulfil this duty as a result of a strict interpretation of Oslo II, whether through the Court or otherwise, would amount to undermining recognised principles of international law; “[b]y this reckoning there is broad consensus that Palestine, at least when it comes to the application and enforcement of international

humanitarian law, is on a par with proper states.”76

  1. Regardless of which approach the Court finds most compelling, Kearney is doubtless

correct in stressing that similar restrictions imposed by the Oslo Accords, such as the capacity to engage in international relations,77 are not reflected in State practice, by either third States or Palestine itself, nor is it conducive to the experience of international organisations and human rights bodies.78 The UN Commission of Inquiry addressing the 2018 protests in the occupied Palestinian territory (Commission of Inquiry) affirmatively

73 Originating in Al-Haq, Position Paper on Issues Arising from the Palestinian Authority’s Submission of a Declaration to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute (14 December 2009).

74 Wall Opinion, 88, 156.

75 See Article 146(2), Fourth Geneva Convention.

76 See Kearney op cit, 34-35.

77 See Request, para 71.

78 Kearney op cit: “It is clear that international practice is to overlook the Oslo restrictions for the benefit of the Palestinian people”.

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found that the PNA has obligations, under both international human rights and humanitarian law,79 applicable to “the entire OPT” (emphasis added),80 without distinction as to the Areas delineated in the Oslo Accords. This is further corroborated by, inter alia, CEDAW81, CERD82, and the CRC.83 As such, the Oslo Accords should not be deemed to be a barrier to the full exertion of the Court’s jurisdiction over the occupied West Bank as a whole.

  1. Finally, it has been argued that the Court’s jurisdiction may not be extended to, or would be of questionable authority, with respect to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.84 It is respectfully submitted that this argument represents the perfect opportunity to illustrate why Article 21(3) should be applied in interpreting the Court’s jurisdiction in Palestine. The construction and maintenance of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem, has been well established to be in violation of internationally recognised principles of human rights law,85 including jus cogens norms, which give rise to obligations erga omnes. Accordingly, interpreting the Court’s, and indirectly the Prosecutor’s, jurisdiction as limited due to the presence of the settlements would be fundamentally incompatible with the Chamber’s obligation to interpret the relevant law in light of principles of human rights.
  2. East Jerusalem

79 UN Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (25 February 2019) UN Doc A/HRC/40/74, para 708 (henceforth “Commission of Inquiry Report”).

80 Ibid., para 759.
81 CEDAW, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (25 July 2018) UN Doc CEDAW/C/PSE/CO/1, PARA

82 CERD, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (20 September 2019) UN Doc CERD/C/PSE/CO/1-2, para 3.

83 CRC, Concluding Observations: State of Palestine (13 February 2020) UN Doc CRC/C/PSE/CO/1, para 4.

84 For this argument, see Stephen Kay and Joshua Kern, ‘The Statehood of Palestine and Its Effect on the Exercise of ICC Jurisdiction’ (5 July 2019) Opinio Juris, available at: https://opiniojuris.org/2019/07/05/the- statehood-of-palestine-and-its-effect-on-the-exercise-of-icc-jurisdiction%EF%BB%BF/.

85 See throughout, Human Rights Council op cit (7 February 2013); see also Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding Observations: Israel (12 November 2019) UN Doc E/C.12/ISR/CO/4, para 11, 16, 46.

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  1. East Jerusalem, or those portions of the city which lie beyond the Green Line, has been repeatedly affirmed and reaffirmed to be a part of the occupied Palestinian territory in countless UN General Assembly,86 Security Council,87 and Human Rights Council88 resolutions, as well as in the Wall Opinion issued by the ICJ.89 Moreover, actions which “purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem” have been deemed by the international community to “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council”.90 While many proposals relating to the status of Jerusalem have been suggested,91 including the so-called corpus separatum proposed in the UN partition plan92, the territorial claim of Palestine to Jerusalem has never been refuted; tellingly, the importance of determining this issue with respect to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including permanent sovereignty, was reiterated on the occasion of Israel’s induction into the UN.93
  2. While it is respectfully submitted that this should be sufficient to satisfy the Court as to its jurisdiction over East Jerusalem, given the importance of the city, both spiritually and as an

86 See, inter alia, UN General Assembly Resolutions: 36/120(D) (10 December 1981), para 5; 36/120(F) (10 December 1981), para 2; 72/15 (7 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/72/15, preamble; 74/11 (9 December 2019) UN Doc A/RES/74/11, para 8, 12.

87 UN Security Council Resolutions: 465 (1 March 1980) UN Doc S/RES/465, para 5; 476 (30 June 1980) UN Doc S/RES/476, para 1; 478 (20 August 1980) UN Doc S/RES/478, para 3.

88 Most recently in UN Human Rights Council Resolution 40/23 (22 March 2019) UN Doc A/RES/40/23, para 15.

89 See, Wall Opinion para 119: “… the wall’s sinuous route has been traced in such a way as to include within that area the great majority of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem)”, also para 120: “The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”

90 UN General Assembly Resolution ES-10/19 (22 December 2017) UN Doc A/RES/ES-10/19, para 1, see also UN Security Council Resolutions: 252 (21 May 1968) UN Doc S/RES/252, para 2; 267 (3 July 1969) UN Doc S/RES/267, para 4; 298 (25 September 1971) UN Doc S/RES/1971, para 3.

91 See, for example, John V Whitbeck, ‘The Road to Peace Starts in Jerusalem: The “Condominium” Solution’ (1996) 45(3) Catholic University Law Review 781.

92 See Part III, UN General Assembly Resolution 181(II) (29 November 1947) UN Doc A/RES/181(II).
93 UN General Assembly Resolution 273(III) (11 May 1949) UN Doc A/RES/273(III), preamble, “[r]ecalling its

resolutions of 29 November 1947 and 11 December 1948”.

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integral component of the territory of Palestine, its status as occupied territory94, as well as the gravity of the situation on the ground, this section will provide further analysis as to the sovereignty and right to self-determination of the Palestinian people in the city, and its continuity ever since the British Mandate was established.

  1. During the British Mandate period, which commenced after the fall of the Ottoman Empire as a result of the peace diplomacy at Versailles, Palestine was categorised, under British rule, as a “Class A” mandate, along with others such as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The ICJ declared that “international law in regard to non-self-governing territories, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, made the principle of self-determination applicable to all of them” as a “sacred trust” that pre-existed the creation of the Mandate system, and “continued to apply to League of Nations mandated territories”.95 Thus, the Palestinian people were recognised as having an inherent right to self-determination, even while under Mandate rule.96 The continuity of this right, which encompassed Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine during the Mandate, remained unbroken, including through the 1948 War. The Jewish Agency declared the establishment of the State of Israel following the seizure of the western part of the city of Jerusalem, and after a protracted campaign of ethnic cleansing directed towards the indigenous Palestinian people,97 the newly-established State of Israel immediately declared Jerusalem to be “Israel-occupied territory.”98 Nonetheless, a few

94 Wall Opinion, para 78.
95 Namibia Opinion, para 52; see also ICJ, International Status of South West Africa (Advisory Opinion) (11 July

1950).

96 On this, see Al-Haq, ‘Al-Haq Briefing Paper – 70 Years On: Palestinians Retain Sovereignty Over East and West Jerusalem’ (2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/cached_uploads/download/alhaq_files/images/stories/PDF/Jerusalem_20%20Oct_final.pdf ; see also John Quigley, ‘Sovereignty in Jerusalem’ (1996) 45(3) Catholic University Law Review 778: Palestinians “had a right to sovereignty based on its connection to the territory, and on the principle of self- determination”.

97 See Henry Cattan, Jerusalem (St Martins’ Press, 1981) 48; also, generally, Ilan Pappe, ‘The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ (2006) 36(1) Journal of Palestine Studies 6; Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (One World, 2006).

98 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 Jerusalem Declared Israel-Occupied City- Government Proclamation, available at: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/mfadocuments/yearbook1/pages/2%20jerusalem%20declared%20israel- occupied%20city-%20governm.aspx.

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months later, in February 1949, Israel abolished military rule and instituted its own civil

administration in the city, amounting to de facto annexation.99
27. East Jerusalem was among the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel during the 1967

War. As noted by the UN Secretary-General in 1967, “[t]he Israel authorities … stated … that the municipality of West Jerusalem began operations in East Jerusalem the day after the fighting ceased. In the beginning it acted as the agent of the Military Government, but from 29 June municipal processes started to function according to Israel law.”100 The extension of annexation from the western to the eastern part of the city, as well as neighbouring Palestinian villages101, made it clear that “Israel was taking every step to place under its sovereignty those parts of the city which were not controlled by Israel before 1967.”102 The annexationist extension of Israeli authority over East Jerusalem and the surrounding area through the shifting and redrawing of municipal boundaries adheres to the so-called “Jerusalem 2020 Master Plan”, designed to achieve “spatial segregation”103 within the city, instituted with the ultimate aim of the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people104, and the demographic manipulation of the city, restricting the Palestinian presence to 30 percent of the population.105

99 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 Jerusalem-s Military Government Abolished- Government Proclamation, available at: http://www.israel.org/MFA/ForeignPolicy/MFADocuments/Yearbook1/Pages/4%20Jerusalem- s%20Military%20Government%20Abolished-%20Gover.aspx.

100 UN Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General under General Assembly Resolution 2254 (ES-V) Relating to Jerusalem (12 September 1967) UN Doc S/8146, para 28.

101 See B’Tselem, East Jerusalem (11 November 2017, last updated 27 January 2019), available at: https://www.btselem.org/jerusalem.

102 Ibid., para 33.

103 Jerusalem Municipality, Local Outline Plan Jerusalem 2000: Report No. 4 (August 2004), section 7: “… spatial segregation of the various populations groups in the city is a real advantage … It is appropriate, therefore, to direct a planning policy that encourages the continuation of spatial segregation with a substantial amount of tolerance and consideration”, available at: http://www.alhaq.org/cached_uploads/download/alhaq_files/en/wp- content/uploads/2018/03/LocalOutlinePlanJerusalem2000.pdf.

104 See UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk (13 January 2014) UN Doc A/HRC/25/67, para 23.

105 Jerusalem Municipality, op cit, section 7: “Demographic Balance ‘According to Governmental Decisions’ – This goal, as presented by the municipality and adopted in governmental discussions regarding the matter, seeks to maintain a ratio of 70% Jews and 30% Arabs.”

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  1. The annexation of East Jerusalem, made effective in 1967, was formalised in Israeli law in 1980 with the passing of the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel,” of constitutional status, envisaging “Jerusalem, complete and united [as] the capital of Israel.”106 This formalisation was condemned as “null and void” by the UN Security Council.107 The culmination of Israel’s annexationist policies to alter the demographic character of the city occurred with the erection of the Annexation Wall, which cemented Israel’s acquisition,108 and illegal annexation,109 of Jerusalem by military force and the coercive displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population, in direct contravention of international law110. As the acquisition of territory by force, as extended by occupation or annexation, cannot vest sovereignty in a belligerent or occupier, the actions taken by Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1980 are ineffectual in vesting Israel with sovereignty over Jerusalem, in particular occupied East Jerusalem.
  2. It is pertinent to give consideration to the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who are not treated in accordance with human dignity, but rather as a demographic challenge by the Israeli authorities. While the State of Palestine is unable to confer citizenship upon residents, Israel refuses to extend similar rights upon Palestinian East Jerusalemites, and instead subjects them to a precarious “permanent residency” status, which may be revoked at any time.111 Moreover, such status may be, and often is, revoked punitively, as part of

106 Knesset, Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, translation available at: https://www.knesset.gov.il/laws/special/eng/basic10_eng.htm.

107 UN Security Council Resolution 478 (20 August 1980) UN Doc S/RES/478.

108 Article 2(4), Charter of the United Nations (adopted 24 October 1945) 1 UNTS XVI.; see also Wall Opinion, para 1; UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (23 December 2014) UN Doc S/RES/2334, preamble.

109 Article 47, Fourth Geneva Convention.

110 See Wall Opinion, para 122: “…the route chosen for the wall gives expression in loco to the illegal measures taken by Israel with regard to Jerusalem and the settlements, as deplored by the Security Council … There is also a risk of further alterations to the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory resulting from the construction of the wall inasmuch as it is contributing … to the departure of Palestinian populations from certain areas.”

111 This was introduced by Knesset, Entry into Israel Law (5710/1950), available at: https://www.adalah.org/uploads/oldfiles/Public/files/Discriminatory-Laws-Database/English/40-Entry-into- Israel-Law-1952.pdf.

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unlawful campaigns of collective punishment, under the vague pretext of a “breach of

allegiance” to the State of Israel.112

  1. Israel’s framework of control over East Jerusalem does not, in any way, provide for the

Palestinian pursuit of political, social, and cultural development, nor the vindication of their inalienable rights under international law, and thus is incompatible with their inherent right of self-determination.113 This manifest and prolonged breach of the collective right of Palestinian East Jerusalemites must be used as a basis, in line with Article 21(3) of the Rome Statute, in interpreting the extent of ICC jurisdiction; it is the Israeli authorities who exercise control over the annexed city and are responsible for the ongoing campaign of rights violations and alleged international crimes. Any move to exclude East Jerusalem from Palestinian jurisdiction would improperly contribute to unending Israeli impunity.

  1. Thus, although the State of Palestine is prohibited from physically exercising its authority over the city, this does not compromise its de jure sovereignty or its jurisdiction over the territory.
  1. The Gaza Strip
  2. As noted above, the Gaza Strip has been internationally recognised as an integral part of occupied Palestinian territory, and therefore is part of the overall Palestinian territorial unit.114 However, the PNA, and thus the State of Palestine, does not exercise effective, de facto control over Gaza. That, however, has not extinguished its de jure jurisdiction and

112 See Al-Haq, Punitive Residency Revocation: the Most Recent Tool of Forcible Transfer (17 March 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/6257.html.

113 Reference re: Secession of Quebec [1998] 2 R.C.S, at para 126.

114 See The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II) (28 September 1995), available at: http://www.acpr.org.il/publications/books/44-Zero-isr-pal-interim-agreement.pdf, Article XI(1): “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit”, and Article XVII(1): “In accordance with the DOP, the jurisdiction will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory as a single territorial unit …”; see also UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (8 January 2009) UN Doc S/RES/1860, preamble: “Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state”.

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claim, nor has it suspended obligations under international law to uphold the human rights

of Palestinians in Gaza.
33. The lack of control directly enjoyed by the PNA in Gaza has been well documented by the

Prosecutor,115 and while Israel argues that Gaza is no longer occupied, or has attained a sui generis status,116 the prevailing expert and UN view is that the territory remains occupied by Israel, despite the so-called removal of its illegal settlements from the Strip in 2005.117 As noted by Professor John Dugard in 2007, during his tenure as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, “[s]tatements by the Government of Israel that the withdrawal ended the occupation of Gaza are grossly inaccurate … In effect, following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed off, imprisoned and occupied territory.”118 Thus, the ability of the PNA to control Gaza is hampered in part by the ongoing closure and measures of collective punishment imposed by Israel with the ultimate goal of rendering Gaza uninhabitable119; as noted by Darcy and Reynolds, “[w]hile events in Gaza have departed from traditional conceptions of warfare and occupation … sufficient clarity is retained when it comes to the effective control exercised by Israel over the Gaza Strip in order to categorize the territory as occupied.”120 As such, it is incorrect to view Gaza as unoccupied territory; the so-called ‘disengagement’ by Israeli forces in 2005 facilitated a new means of Israel’s domination and control,

115 See Request, para 80.
116 See, for example, Elizabeth Samson, ‘Is Gaza Occupied?: Redefining the Status of Gaza under International

Law’ (2010) 25(5) American University Law Review 915.

117 George E Bisharat et al, ‘Israel’s Invasion of Gaza in International Law’ (2009) 38(1) Denver Journal of International Law & Policy 47-51; Shane Darcy and John Reynolds, ‘An Enduring Occupation: The Status of the Gaza Strip from the Perspective of International Humanitarian Law’ (2010) 15(2) Journal of Conflict & Security Law 223-242; Yoram Dinstein, The International Law of Belligerent Occupation (2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, 2009) 851-862.

118 UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 (29 January 2007) UN Doc A/HRC/4/17, para 6.

119 See UN, Gaza “Unliveable”, UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the OPT Tells Third Committee (24 October 2018), available at: https://www.un.org/unispal/document/gaza-unliveable-un- special-rapporteur-for-the-situation-of-human-rights-in-the-opt-tells-third-committee-press-release-excerpts/.

120 Darcy and Reynolds, op cit, 243.
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effectively amounting to a “reployment” of military capabilities exercising control of land

borders, airspace, and naval frontiers.121
34. It must be stressed that the partial control, hampered by continued Israeli occupation,

exercised by Hamas within Gaza does not produce a sui generis, quasi-state status; Hamas itself views Gaza as integral to Palestine,122 and rejects any suggestion that its administrative role in Gaza compromises Palestinian territorial integrity. Moreover, regardless of de facto control by Hamas, the PLO has been treated as the “sole legitimate representatives” of the Palestinian people by the League of Arab States,123 Israel,124 the UN General Assembly,125 and a United States federal appeals court.126 This may be observed in practice through the accepted claim by the PNA, controlled by the PLO, over Gaza’s territorial waters, in line with the Convention on the Law of the Sea127, asserting sovereignty over the “territorial sea, its airspace, and its bed and subsoil”.128 Thus, the link between the sovereign claim by the State of Palestine in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is fundamentally linked and congruent to that of the Gaza Strip.

121 Bisharat, op cit, 49.
122 See Hamas, Hamas warns against holding Palestinian elections separately (23 October 2019), available at:

https://hamas.ps/en/post/2382/hamas-warns-against-holding-palestinian-elections-separately.

123 League of Arab States, PLO sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – LAS Rabat Summit (28 October 1974), available on UN website at: https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-194621/; see also Issa Al-Shuaibi, ‘The Development of Palestinian Entity-Consciousness: Part III’ (1980) 9(3) Journal of Palestine Studies 100.

124 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel-PLO Recognition: Exchange of Letters between PM Rabin and Chairman Arafat, available at: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/israel- plo%20recognition%20-%20exchange%20of%20letters%20betwe.aspx.

125 The Assembly altered the designation of “Palestine Liberation Organization” given to the PLO to simply “Palestine”, thereby essentially conflating the two, see UN General Assembly Resolution 43/177 (15 December 1988) UN Doc A/RES.43/177, para 3; note, however, that this does not indicate that the PLO has become synonymous with Palestine as such, but rather is its internationally recognised conduit, see Azarov and Meloni op cit.

126 Universal Cable Productions LLC v Atlantic Speciality Insurance Company (12 July 2019) 9th Circuit, at 29: “Here, the Palestinian Authority is the de jure government”, available at: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2019/07/12/17-56672.pdf.

127 Convention on the Law of the Sea (adopted 10 December 1982, entry into force 16 November 1994).

128 State of Palestine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Declaration of the State of Palestine regarding its maritime boundaries in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, available at: https://www.un.org/Depts/los/LEGISLATIONANDTREATIES/PDFFILES/PSE_Deposit_09-2019.pdf.

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  1. The PNA’s de jure jurisdictional claim over the Gaza Strip is further strengthened by the direct applicability of international human rights treaties acceded to by the State of Palestine therein. This has been affirmed by the Commission of Inquiry,129 and was seemingly taken as self-evident by CERD in its December 2019 jurisdictional decision.130 This has been further confirmed by other bodies such as CEDAW131 and CRC132. Indeed, the Commission of Inquiry “consider[ed] Hamas to be obligated to respect, protect and fulfil human rights” based on the accessions to various treaties by the State of Palestine,133 indicating that Hamas, as the de facto authorities in Gaza, are bound by obligations of the State of Palestine. Thus, there does not appear to be any general bar to the imposition of international statutory obligations upon either the Gaza Strip, or Hamas; instead, the State of Palestine is demonstrably capable of imposing such obligations.
  2. Moreover, within the specific framework of the Rome Statute, there does not appear to be any prohibition on the extension of the Court’s jurisdiction to the Gaza Strip, despite de facto control by Hamas. In the context of the occupied Georgian territory, referred to as South Ossetia, the PTC ruled that regardless of the lack of effective control by Georgia over that territory, “South Ossetia is to be considered as part of Georgia, as it is generally not considered an independent State.”134 In light of this decision, in a context wherein a separate State, although its legitimacy is questionable, had been declared, it would be inconsistent for the Court to deny the applicability of its jurisdictional reach due to the lack of de facto control over Gaza by the State of Palestine. Gaza is not the subject of an adverse separatist

129 See Commission of Inquiry Report, para 759, 768. 130 See throughout, CERD Decision.
131 CEDAW, op cit, para 9.
132 CRC, op cit, para 4.

133 Commission of Inquiry Report, para 759.

134 ICC, Situation in Georgia: Decision on the Prosecutor’s request for authorization of an investigation (27 January 2016) ICC-01/15, para 6.

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claim, but rather functions and has been recognised as an integral component of the

occupied Palestinian territory.
37. Similarly, as the Court has previously made implicit designations on the competing claims

to legitimacy of opposing authorities,135 it is respectfully submitted that the Court should be satisfied with the State of Palestine’s internationally recognised de jure status as the competent authority over the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory, and should not be deterred by its lack of de facto control. The Court’s sole consideration vis-à-vis the competency of Palestinian authorities to submit jurisdiction to the Court begins and ends with positions “clearly designated by the [de jure] State.”136 The implications of an alternative ruling would be a consolidation of the fragmentation of the Palestinian people; should the Gaza Strip be excluded from the remit of the Prosecutor’s investigation, the Court would further entrench the arbitrary fragmentation, imposed by Israel’s occupation machinery137, facilitating the creation and maintenance of a regime of impunity shielding accountability for the commission of international crimes.

  1. Conclusion
  2. Should the Court deem it necessary to make a jurisdictional ruling, under the auspices of Article 19(3), at this stage, it is respectfully submitted that it should rule that the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory constitutes the legitimate territory of the State of Palestine, and is subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. While I am mindful of the importance and sensitivity of the issues presently before the Court to the objections of a sovereign State, however in this instance it has become abundantly clear that the broader legal considerations of extending legal accountability for international crimes should be given priority.

135 See ICC, Situation in Libya in the Case of the Prosecutor v Said Al-Islam Gaddafi: Decision on the Prosecutor’s “Request for an order directing the Registrar to transmit the request for arrest and surrender to Mr al-‘Ajami AL-ATIRI, Commander of the Abu0Bakr Al Siddiq Battalion in Zintan, Libya” (21 November 2016) ICC-01/11-1/11, para 15.

136 Ibid., para 16.
137 See Richard Falk, ‘Israel’s Politics of Fragmentation’ (10 October 2010) Global Justice in the 21st Century,

available at: https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/israels-politics-of-fragmentation/.
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  1. Once more, it is necessary to stress that the presence of disputed borders, or portions of the occupied Palestinian territory wherein the State of Palestine does not exercise effective control, does not preclude Palestine, nor the Court, from exercising full jurisdiction therein. Moreover, as outlined above, there is no valid legal or factual barrier that precludes such a finding of jurisdiction; indeed, it is submitted that the object and purpose of the Rome Statute, the underlying goals of the Court, internationally recognised human rights principles and norms, and the promotion of global justice necessitate that an investigation be immediately opened, encompassing the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territory.
  2. The Court is not bound, nor does it enjoy the authority, to make a substantive ruling as to the statehood of Palestine; such a ruling, it is submitted, would be ultra vires and outside of the Court’s role with respect to international criminal justice. Instead, the Court should recognise what is widely accepted since Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute, and was recognised as a non-Member State by the UN General Assembly: Palestine, if nothing else, is a full and valid State Party of the Rome Statute, and as such is entitled, and fully bound by the instrument. In this regard, the substantive statehood of Palestine, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed, as outlined above, is ancillary.
  3. If the Court deems it necessary to provide a ruling on jurisdiction at this stage, therefore, it is submitted that this is the decision the Court must reach. As rightly noted by Professor John Quigley in his amicus curiae submission, dated 3 March 2020, “[t]he issue of Palestine statehood is a legal matter unrelated to political considerations. To say that Palestine is a state is to take no position on the equities of the Israel-Palestine situation. It implies no position on how the two parties should resolve their differences.”138 The issue before the Court is a legal one, and as such must be considered in light of established legal principles, which clearly indicate that the State of Palestine enjoys the status of a State within the

138 John Quigley, Situation in the State of Palestine: Submissions Pursuant to Rule 103 (John Quigley) (3 March 2020) ICC-01/18, para 59.

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context of the Rome Statute, and has the authority and competence to provide the Court with jurisdiction over the entirety of its territory, defined as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, in line with the provisions of Article 12(3).

Professor Richard Falk

Dated this 16th day of March, 2020 At Istanbul, Turkey

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Should the Palestinians Seek Justice NOW at the International Criminal Court?

23 Feb

Should the Palestinians Seek Justice NOW at the International Criminal Court?

 

[Prefatory Note: This post is a modified version of an opinion piece published by Middle East Eye on February 20, 2017. It calls particular attention to the punitive treatment of recourse to international law tribunals to address perceived grievances that is meant to discourage Palestinians from seeking relief at the International Criminal Court. On one level this form of lawfare underscores the weakness and vulnerability of Israel when the conflict is shifted from the battlefield to the courtroom. On another level it is meant to deny the Palestinian people, and their representatives, all legitimate amd moderate options by which to pursue their claims and address their grievances. It signals that the ‘enforcers’ of world order repudiate their own accountability with regard to the rule of law, while purporting to hold others to account, for instance, by criminalizing all forms of violent resistance to prolonged and abusive occupation as ‘terrorism.’]

 

 

Weakening the Two-State Consensus

 There is little doubt that the mid-February Netanyahu/Trump love fest at the White House further dampened already dim Palestinian hopes for a sustainable peace based on a political compromise. The biggest blow was Trump’s casual abandonment of the two-state solution coupled with an endorsement of a one-state outcome provided the parties agree to such an outcome, which as so expressed is a result almost impossible to suppose ever happening in the real world. Israel would never agree to a secular one-state that effectively abandons the Zionist insistence on a Jewish state with deep historical roots and biblical validation. The Palestinians would never agree to live in such a Jewish one-state that essentially abandoned their long struggle to achieve national self-determination, thereby gaining liberation from the last major remnant of the colonial era.

 

With geopolitical bravado suitable for the real estate magnate that he remains, despite the presidential trappings of his formal role, Trump also vaguely promised to negotiate a grand deal for the region that evidently reached beyond the contested territory of Palestine so long locked in conflict, and thus encompassed neighboring countries or possibly the whole region. It is easy to speculate that such murmurings by Trump were not welcomed in either Jordan or Egypt, long favored by rightest Israelis as dumping grounds for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Such added ‘political space’ is attractive from an Israeli perspective, both to ensure that Israel maintains a comfortable Jewish majority if the one-state solution were ever forcibly implemented by Israel. At the same time the prospect of population transfer would allow Israel to achieve a higher degree of racial purity, a feature of the dominant Zionist imaginary long before Israel became internationally recognized as a state.

 

An inflammatory part of this new political environment is the accelerated expansion of the existing network of unlawful Israeli settlements located in occupied Palestine. Although near unanimously condemned in Security Council Resolution 2334 last December, Israel responded by defiantly announcing approval of thousands more settlement units, endorsing plans for an entirely new settlement, and by way of a Knesset initiative provocatively legalized settlement ‘outposts,’ 50 of which are distributed throughout the West Bank in direct violation of even Israeli law. It is possible that the Israeli Supreme Court will heed anticipated judicial challenges to this latest move, and eventually void this Knesset law, but even if this happens, the passage of such a law sends a clear message of iron resolve by the political forces currently steering Israeli policy never to permit the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

 

In these circumstances, it becomes incumbent upon the Palestinian Authority to show the world that it is still alive, and it currently has few ways of doing this. Given these realities it would seem a no brainer for the PA to light up the skies of public awareness of the Palestinian plight by vigorously demanding justice at the International Criminal Court (ICC). After all there is a wide consensus on the global stage that all the settlements, and not just the outposts, are in violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These settlements have for decades served as a major obstacle in the search for a satisfactory diplomatic solution of the conflict. Of course, it would be naïve to expect Israel to comply with an adverse judgment of the ICC, or to participate in such a proceeding in ways other than by challenging the competence of the tribunal, but a favorable outcome would still be of great value for the Palestinians. It would cast Israel in an unfavorable light in relation to the UN, international law, and world public opinion, and undoubtedly encourage the further development of the already robust global solidarity movement.

 

Yet, despite these circumstances that makes the ICC seem such an attractive option, a PA decision to take this path is far from obvious. The former Foreign Minister of the PA and member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Nasser al-Kidwa, effectively dismissed the ICC option by calling it ‘complicated’ without any further explanation, leaving the impression that the costs of taking such a step were too high. However, the issue is not yet settled as mixed signals are emanating from Palestinian leadership circles. For instance, the PLO Secretary General, Saeb Erekat, in contrast to Kidwa, minced no words in his insistence that the ICC investigate “the colonial settlement regime.”

 

It seems useful to speculate on why there should be this ambivalence among Palestinian leaders. After all, international law, international public opinion, and even most European governments are all supportive of Palestinian claims with regard to the settlements. Israel remains more defiant than ever, and shows every sign of further expansion, possibly with an eye toward soon unilaterally declaring an end to the conflict, a move that Washington might find temporarily awkward, but in the end, acceptable. At the core of this debate about recourse to the ICC is the tricky question as to whether deference to the muscular vagaries of geopolitics serves Palestinian interests at this time.

 

Recourse to the ICC: Pros and Cons

 

The argument favoring recourse to the ICC is almost too obvious to put forward. It would back Israel into a corner. The Netanyahu government is certain to react with anger and concrete expressions of hostility to any such move by the PA. Such a reaction would be widely seen as a convincing confirmation of Israel’s vulnerability to any impartial test as to whether its settlement policies meet the minimum requirements of international law. And most importantly for the PA it would demonstrate that despite recent political disappointments the Ramallah leadership was prepared to embark upon a controversial course of action that displayed political courage, including a willingness to endure expected vindictive acts of retaliation. Recourse to the ICC would play well with the Palestinian people, especially those living under occupation. They experience daily tensions with violent settler groups and see no future for themselves absent confrontation with Israel. If the PA chooses such a course, it would help restore support for the flagging claims of the PA to serve as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the global level. This is turn could lead finally to durable arrangements of unity as between Hamas and Fatah, which would raise confidence levels that the Palestinians were prepared for this latest, difficult stage of their national movement.

 

The arguments against going to the ICC are somewhat more elusive. There is no doubt that Palestine, recognized by the UN as a state now enjoys the jurisdictional qualifications to participate in ICC proceedings. What is less clear is whether the ICC would be responsive, and able to circumvent technical obstacles, such as finding suitable Israeli defendants. During its 15 years of operation the ICC has been very reluctant to be pro-active except in Africa, and even there it has been recently stung by an intense pushback by African governments and the African Union. The ICC has been reluctant to stir up political opposition in the West, which would certainly occur as soon as the ICC launched a full investigation of Palestinian criminal grievances against Israel.

 

There is also the reverse problem of ICC action that might disappoint the PA. To appear balanced, the ICC would probably extend its investigation to include allegations relating to indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. It could then decide that a strong case of probable criminal responsibility attributable to Hamas existed, while allegations against Israel failed because of the inability to establish criminal intent. Although a setback for the PA, such an outcome at the ICC would be internationally criticized as contrary to reasonable interpretations of international law, and be widely regarded as a reflection of political pressures exerted by Washington.

 

Likely, the PA is most inhibited by the ‘lawfare’ campaign being waged by Israel and the United States. Already during the Obama presidency there was Congressional legislation terminating financial assistance to the PA in the event of any recourse to the ICC. Since Trump these warnings have escalated, including the total suspension of financial aid, the closing of the PLO offices in Washington, and threats to put the PLO and Fatah back on the US list of terrorist organizations. It is evident that the PA is taking these unseemly threats seriously.

 

There are also PA fears that any ICC initiative would induce Israel to move more quickly toward closure with respect to the underlying conflict, annexing most or all of the West Bank. Such a reaction would both be in keeping with Israel’s tendency to respond disproportionately to any formal action directed at the legality of its policies and practices. Israel is particularly sensitive about war crimes charges, and vows extraordinary measures should any of its citizens be so charged. Now that Netanyahu can count on unconditional support in the White House and the US Congress it would not be surprising to see him use the occasion of an ICC initiative to proclaim Israeli sovereignty over the whole of historic Palestine.

 

Conclusion

 

In light of the above, it seems almost certain that the PA will not act take advantage of the ICC option any time soon. The PA is likely to adopt a posture of neither/nor, that is, neither explicitly ruling out recourse to the ICC, nor activating the option. This reflects the reality that the PA is caught between the rock of US/Israel bullying tactics and the hard place of an increasingly restive Palestinian population, being acutely reminded of its ordeal by the grim realization that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation.

 

The United States posture, although somewhat more belligerently pro-Israel as a result of the Trump presidency, is really nothing new except in style. Even during the Obama presidency the US opposed every attempt by the PA to rely on international law or the UN to advance its national struggle. Instead of welcoming the use of law rather than weapons, the US Government castigated efforts of Palestine to gain membership in the UN System or to seek even symbolic relief for its grievances in international venues. This turn against international law, as well as against the UN, is clearly a signature issue for the Trump presidency, and not just in relation to Palestine, and this is not good news for the world.

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

21 Jul

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.)

 

 

 

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

 

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their side. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law, global solidarity, and their own creative and brave resistance that the Palestinian people must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

 

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

 

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

 

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determine whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29, 2012 the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

 

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping atomic bombs on the heavily populated cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

 

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

 

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

 

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

 

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

 

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the thin PA deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

Prosecuting Syrians for War Crimes Now

5 Jun

 

 

            A major undertaking of the victorious powers in World War II was to impose individual criminal accountability upon political and military leaders for alleged crimes committed during wartime before a tribunal convened by the victors that gave those accused a fair opportunity to present a defense. This application of this idea of accountability to German and Japanese surviving leaders at trials held in Nuremberg and Tokyo was hailed at the time as a major step in the direction of a ‘just peace.’ International law was treated as binding upon sovereign states and those that represented the government, conceived to be a major step in the direction of a global rule of law. The final decisions of these tribunals also produced a narrative as to why World War II was a necessary and just war. Such an outcome was both a vindication of the victory on the battlefield and a punitive repudiation of those who fought and lost. Significantly, this criminal process was formally initiated only after the combat phase of the war had ended and Germany and Japan had surrendered.

 

            There were skeptics in 1945 that whispered ‘victors’ justice,’ and insisted that this ‘Nuremberg experience’ was a partisan exercise in truth-telling. Above the courtroom hung an invisible sign reading ‘only losers need enter here.’ The Nuremberg goddess of ‘war justice’ wore no blindfold, assessed with one eye the crimes of the losers and averted her other eye so as not to see the crimes of the winners. In the actual trials those whose criminality was being assessed were not accused of any crimes that resembled the practices of the winners, and were not allowed by the tribunal bring up in their defense any of their alleged crimes.

 

            Many wanted to overlook this flaw, and move on to create a justice system that would indeed operate on the basis of the nature of the act as criminal or not, and not make criminality depend on the identity of the actorBut moving toward the ideal of equality before the law has not been easy. It requires elevating international criminal law above the precepts of geopolitics. Yet the impulse to do so in form has surfaced strongly in the aftermath of the Cold War, but we have yet to see any corresponding substantive transformation that must occur if equals are to be treated equally in international criminal law.

 

            Against such a background, the attempts to hold individuals, whether acting on behalf of governments or insurgencies, individually accountable for war crimes is treated as a core element of global justice. Since the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002, an institutional mechanism exists on a global level by which to apply international criminal law in an objective and authoritative manner. Further there exists convincing proof that horrifying atrocities have been committed in the course of the Syrian civil war, principally by the government and armed forces of Syria, and to a far lesser extent by various factions among the fragmented opposing rebel forces. In these circumstances, it would certainly seem appropriate to charge both Syrian government officials, including military commanders, and members of the insurgent opposition, with such crimes.

 

            France presented a resolution to the UN Security Council on 22 May calling upon the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes in Syria, and to proceed with prosecutions to the extent possible. The resolution was supported by a 13-2 vote, yet it failed to pass because the two dissenting votes were cast by Russia and China, countries enjoying a right of veto. As might be expected, there have been angry explanations of the result given by both sides. According to the Russian delegate, the French initiative was nothing more than ‘a publicity stunt’ that would hamper, or even preclude, the difficult search for a diplomatic end to the strife. The Western reaction, significantly endorsed by the UN Secretary General’s office, declared that such a use of the veto was ‘irresponsible,’ even ‘disgraceful.’ It amounted to a de facto grant of impunity to the worst perpetrators of state crime active on the planet at this time.

 

            I believe that both of these contrasting reactions are understandable, and can be given a qualified endorsement despite seeming to contradict one another. The Russian reaction reflects a view that the main motivations for such a resolution is to weaken the legitimacy of the Damascus regime in the midst of an unresolved struggle for control of the country, and in this sense is better interpreted geopolitically as an irresponsible propaganda move rather than as a genuine attempt to promote criminal justice. As well, it has been Moscow’s insistence all along that the only way to end the violence in Syria is by way of diplomatic compromise. Thus, any attempt to indict Syrian leaders as war criminals while the fighting persists weakens the already dim prospects of resolving the conflict by diplomacy. It gives Assad and other Syrian leaders, the circle of those that likely would have been indicted, strong incentives to rely on combat rather than take their chances with diplomacy.

 

            The French approach, strongly supported by the Western powers, especially the United States, focuses on the clear evidence of criminality attributable to the Damascus regime. Such behavior deserves to be formally criminalized, and the fact that the Assad regime remains in power enhances the urgency of doing so. There is no need to look beyond these facts, and taking such action may increase the pressure on the Syrian government to seek accommodation.

 

            Further along these lines, the argument that recourse to the ICC will end diplomatic efforts to end the violence is specious. Conventional diplomacy has been given many chances, and has failed. They claim that diplomacy has been repeatedly tried and failed, including reliance at the highest levels on the good offices of the UN and Arab League through the determined efforts by Special Envoys, first, Kofi Annan and the Lakhdar Brahimi. To act as if diplomacy might succeed in the future is mainly a diversionary tactic to discourage taking immediate steps that might bring the war to an end in ways that are helpful to the aspirations of the majority of Syrians. The supporters of the French resolution argue that activating the ICC will produce public indignation, swing support to the insurgent side, and produce a more politically and morally desirable end game to the conflict by discrediting the Damascus regime and empowering the opposition within Syria, the region, and the world. There are many uncertainties exposed by this debate. It is difficult to reach a clear conclusion as to which side is more persuasive, but there are a series of considerations that should be taken into account, and add weight to those who voice skepticism about the French initiative.

 

            Motivation. There are reasons to think that this effort at this time is mainly an expression of frustration and desperation, and as such a misuse of the ICC by Western powers. True, the crimes of the insurgent rebels as well as those of the Syrian government were included in the proposed resolution, but the motivation was to delegitimize the Damascus government. Yet the rationale for initiating a criminal investigation directed at the leadership of all participants in the midst of a civil war for the control of the country seems like a misdirected move that is made in the face of the failure of earlier Western efforts to intervene sufficiently on the insurgent side .to produce regime change

            Timing. To use the ICC in the midst of an ongoing civil war in Syria is to take sides, and thus interfere with an ongoing internal struggle for control of the state and society. Mentioned above, even the Allied Powers in World War II waited until the guns fell silent before initiating any criminal process. As such, acting in the present setting interferes with the right of self-determination enjoyed by the people of Syria. Yet since there has been already considerable interference through funding and material support, the preconditions for self-determination do not exist, making an end to the violence that has been so devastating for the population of the country a primary goal. This makes it seem that the most important question to ask is whether criminal indictments while the war rages is likely to hasten or delay an ending of the conflict. And since neither side has shown the ability to prevail, the Russians seem right in their insistence that despite disappointments with earlier efforts, diplomacy continues to be the only path forward, although it is admittedly narrow.

           

            Justice. Is justice served when the authority of the ICC is invoked as a political instrument to influence the outcome of a civil war? There are reasons to worry about the discrediting impact of double standards. Why was there never any initiative to pursue leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom during the course of the Iraq War, which also included many incidents that seemed to qualify as crimes against humanity? This question takes on greater weight when added to earlier criticisms of the profile of the ICC, which has pursued a variety of sub-Saharan African leaders, but few others. It is also relevant to recall that the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, was indicted in the midst of the Kosovo War in 1999 undertaken without UN authorization by NATO, again seemingly motivated by the urge to strengthen public support for the justness of a legally controversial military effort to end Serbian administration of Kosovo. Again in the NATO led military operation against the Libyan regime, the ICC issued arrest warrants for the Qaddafi leadership while NATO planes were bombing Tripoli. In effect, the allegation being made by critics of such war crimes prosecutions is that the whole undertaking has been politicized in ways that lead to a selective application of the law that seems inconsistent with claims of justice. In effect, the criticism of Nuremberg still applies—only losers and the weak are accountable. For the others, impunity.

 

            Feasibility. The unlikelihood of obtaining personal jurisdiction in relation to the principal perpetrators of war crimes in Syria, especially Bashar al-Assad and major political officials and military commanders, makes the claimed rationale for seeking indictments at this stage also suspect. Proceeding now seems to have as its main justification a means to add moral weight to the position of pro-insurgency governments that something more should be done to stop the criminality of the Assad-led government. Reinforcing this reasoning is a consensus that since military intervention is not feasible and diplomacy has failed, the only option left is to charge Syrian leaders with crimes against humanity. The ICC provides a venue to mobilize pressure for giving additional help to the rebels, and at the same time depriving the Damascus government of whatever is left of its legitimacy. The fact that the French resolution calls also for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity committed by the opposition, while not being frivolous, is nevertheless certain to receive far less attention in the event tha the UNSC had given the ICC a green light.

 

            There is a serious question as to whether it is appropriate to use the ICC to gather evidence and prepare an indictment in circumstances where prospects of prosecution are remote and an ongoing struggle for control of the Syrian state remains unresolved. Such limitations also would seem to reinforce concerns about the timing of this initiative. It makes recourse to ICC not only ineffectual as a means to pursue criminal justice, but damaging to the credibility of this fledgling international institution that was created, it should be remembered, to overcome the vagaries of geopolitics, not to serve as their instrument for engaging in maneuvers.

 

            Concluding Comment. There are two intertwined concerns: First, whether seeking criminal indictments of Syrians accused of crimes against humanity is on balance helpful or harmful in relation to the search for peace that has so far proved fruitless. This issue should be considered in relation to prospects for resolving the devastating conflict in Syria that has already lasted for more than three years.

 

            And secondly, whether such recourse to the ICC would strengthen or weaken this judicial institution, and its need to overcome the strong impression of operating on the basis of double standards in relation to criminal accountability. So far all efforts to use the ICC in response to crimes alleged against Western countries have been rebuffed, and Western leaders have enjoyed impunity and have minimized their own participation in the activities of the ICC except when it serves their interests in going after adversaries. A tiny opening is the recent indication that the ICC is formally investigating criminal charges relating to the abuse of Iraqi detainees by United Kingdom occupying forces in the years after 2003. Perhaps, the times are changing, after all!