The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) recently reaffirmed her argument that the Palestinians qualify for jurisdiction of the court despite not being considered an official state under international law—a key component for the court’s jurisdiction—helping set the stage for a war crimes trial targeting Israel. In response, the United States reaffirmed their argument that the proceedings are a sham and warned the court against proceeding.
A panel for the International Criminal Court is considering whether or not the prosecutor’s argument will stand regarding jurisdiction for so-called “Palestine.”
“A court that attempts to exercise its power outside its jurisdiction is a political tool that makes a mockery of the law and due process,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Friday. “The United States reiterates its longstanding objection to any illegitimate ICC investigations. If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences.”
While Pompeo wasn’t specific on what that penalty might be, the Trump Administration has not been shy about using financial and diplomatic pressure as a tool to try and drive international policy, including withholding funds from the Palestinians over their payment of terrorists, trade tariffs on China and more.
Typically, the ICC only has jurisdiction over states that accept its authority. The United States and Israel are among the nations who have refused to make their national justice systems subservient to the international court.
The Palestinians have accepted the court’s jurisdiction, but their lack of internationally recognized statehood has so far barred them from convincing the ICC to try Israel for unfounded allegations of war crimes. The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, referred the matter to the ICC’s pre-trial Chamber for review, while arguing in her own statement to the panel that the Palestinians qualify. Pompeo vigorously disagrees.
“As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute [for ICC jurisdiction], we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC,” wrote Pompeo.
It’s not just the US who feels that way either. Pompeo pointed out that seven other states that are party to the Rome Statute and therefore covered under the ICC—Australia, Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Uganda—have “made formal submissions to the Court that assert that the ICC does not have jurisdiction to proceed with this investigation. We concur.”
Earlier this month, Yuval Steinitz, speaking as leader of Israel’s taskforce for the ICC, said in a press release that ICC prosecutor Bensouda “continues to espouse her typical anti-Israel stance” by arguing for the Palestinians legitimacy before the court. Steinitz said Bensouda is “influenced” by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the movement seeking to attack Israel with boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
“The Prosecutor’s disregard for the opinions of some of the world’s leading experts on international law points to her determination to harm the State of Israel and tarnish its name,” said Steinitz in a May 1 press release. “In the name of this objective she has reformulated the rules of international law, inventing a Palestinian state while the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has yet to be concluded.”
Pompeo agrees, rebuking the Court in his statement last week for Bensouda’s approach to the Palestinian claims. “The International Criminal Court is a political body, not a judicial institution,” said Pompeo. “This unfortunate reality has been confirmed yet again by the ICC Prosecutor’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over Israel, which like the United States, is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the Court.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 17, 2020)