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News, June 2015
Palestinian Foreign Minister Submits First Case Material Against Israeli War Criminals to the Hague Court
June 26, 2015
PA Presents Evidence Against Israel to ICC
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday delivered the first batch of
evidence to the International Criminal Court in support of its campaign
to have Israel investigated for alleged war crimes.
The following is an edited Reuters news story:
Palestinians submit first case material against Israel to Hague court
By Thomas Escritt
The Palestinian Authority made its first submission of evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court on Thursday, trying to speed up an ICC inquiry into abuses committed during last year's Gaza conflict.
The move may leave Israel in a quandary since it must decide whether to cooperate with the ICC investigation or find itself isolated as one of a very few countries that have declined to work with its prosecutors.
Some $400 million in annual U.S. economic aid to the Palestinian Authority could also be jeopardized by the inquiry.
Standing outside the ICC after meeting the court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he had submitted dossiers on the Gaza conflict, Israeli settlements on occupied land where Palestinians seek a state, and treatment of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
"Palestine is a test for the credibility of international mechanisms ... a test the world cannot afford to fail. Palestine has decided to seek justice, not vengeance," Maliki said.
A cease-fire in August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
U.N. investigators said on Monday that Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed grave abuses of international humanitarian law during the conflict that may amount to war crimes.
The Hague-based ICC, with no police force or enforcement powers of its own, is looking into alleged crimes by both sides of the conflict but cannot compel Israel to give it information.
PRELIMINARY ICC INQUIRY UNDERWAY
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, joined the court in April and Bensouda has opened a preliminary investigation related to Gaza.
But Israel has substantial leverage over the course of ICC inquiries since court investigators can access sites in Gaza generally only via Israel. Gaza's one border crossing with Egypt is largely closed for security reasons and Israel also controls all crossings into the West Bank.
Maliki said he had agreed with prosecutors on a date for them to visit Palestinian territories, but did not say when. "It depends on their ability to enter Palestinian territory without problems," he said. ICC prosecutors told Reuters earlier they aimed to make field trips to both the Palestinian and Israeli sides but had not yet sought formal Israeli permission.
Israel has been an outspoken critic of the ICC, saying the Palestinian Authority is not a state and should never have been admitted as an ICC member.
The United States is not a member of the ICC, and many U.S. lawmakers have criticized the Palestinians' decision to join it as detrimental to hopes for peace with Israel. On Thursday, members of the U.S. Congress said the Palestinians' "misguided" action threatened U.S. aid.
"By formally submitting allegations against Israeli forces to the ICC chief prosecutor, President (Mahmoud) Abbas has triggered a provision in U.S. law that suspends all economic assistance to the PA," said U.S. Representative Nita Lowey, a senior member of the subcommittee that oversees foreign aid.
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration also said it opposes actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive. "We do not believe the Palestinians are eligible to accede to the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court," said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
Vatican signs first treaty with 'State of Palestine', backs two-state solution
VATICAN CITY | By Philip Pullella
Fri Jun 26, 2015 7:06am EDT
The treaty concerned the Catholic Church's activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli foreign ministry said it regretted the move, calling the signing of a treaty, which implies there is an official Palestinian state, "a hasty step (that) damages the prospects for advancing a peace agreement".
But Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister, said he hoped the agreement could be a "stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both Parties".
He said he hoped that a peace process directly negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians could resume and lead to a two-state solution.
"This certainly requires courageous decisions, but it will also offer a major contribution to peace and stability in the region," he said..
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2012 recognizing Palestine as an observer non-member state. This was welcomed at the time by the Vatican, which has the same observer non-member status at the United Nations.
Since then the Vatican has de facto recognized a "State of Palestine" and Pope Francis referred to it by that name when he visited the Holy Land last year.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)
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