Saturday, August 9, 2014

The US, Palestine and the International Criminal Court

It was reported lately that Netanyahu had approached US lawmakers to help Israeli political and military leaders evade war crimes charges, as Palestine is likely to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  

Can the US really help Israel?

Firstly, as far as Palestine is concerned, the fact that the US is a non-Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court should be viewed positively.  

The US is not a member of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, which bars it from having “direct influence” over the Court. But this, of course, does not imply that the ICC Judges and Prosecutor do not function independently. This is merely to say that the US is completely outside the ICC. Furthermore, the US does not contribute to the budget of the Court, and therefore cannot “blackmail” it, or impose financial “sanctions” on it. 

In this respect, it is worthwhile reminding how the US sanctioned UNESCO when it admitted Palestine as a full member in 2011. The US cannot do that with regard to the ICC.

Secondly, in case Palestine accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, it is possible that the US would invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute, to (temporarily) shield Israeli leaders from prosecution by the ICC - as briefly illustrated in a previous post.  

Thirdly, the US might exert pressure on other States in order not to cooperate with requests by the Court, including arrest and surrender requests. However, all States Parties to the Statute are under a general obligation to cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes - the only exception being Article 98 of the Statute, where the requested State itself would be required to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law. 

In conclusion, the US cannot offer much protection to Israeli leaders in this regard.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Palestine and Article 16 of the ICC Rome Statute

If Palestine eventually decides to turn to the International Criminal Court, there is no doubt that the United States would try to rely on Article 16 of the ICC Rome Statute to block the procedures.

The ICC may be prevented from exercising its jurisdiction when so directed by the Security Council, according to Article 16. This is called ‘deferral’. The aforementioned Article states that the Security Council may adopt a resolution - under Chapter VII of the UN Charter - requesting the Court to suspend investigation or prosecution for a twelve-month period. In this case, the Court may not proceed.   

Perhaps Palestine should go to Moscow and/or Beijing, before going to The Hague, to “guarantee” their vetoes - in case the US would try to shield Israeli political and military leaders from prosecution. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Israel must provide shelters to Palestinians

Israel, the Occupying Power, has an obligation to provide proper shelters to Palestinian civilians whom it orders to evacuate. However, it not only violates its obligation, but also pounds shelters provided by third parties.