Abbas: Palestine plans lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine, announced his intention on Monday to sue the government of the United Kingdom over the 1917 Balfour Declaration which paved the way for the creation of Israel.

Balfour Declaration published in The Times of London - 9 November 1917

Balfour Declaration published in The Times of London – 9 November 1917

The statement of Abbas was delivered by foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki at the opening of this week’s Arab League summit in Mauritania, in the absence of Abbas.

It is said that the 1917 Balfour Declaration, named after then UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, pledged to support the establishment of a “national home” for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Declaration is seen as a key milestone for the Zionist movement.

The document formed the basis of the British Mandate for Palestine, which was formally approved by the League of Nations in 1922.

Al-Maliki said that the Balfour Declaration led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine. According to al-Maliki, the Declaration “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs”.

In the statement it was further said that the United Kingdom was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the British mandate in 1948.

According to the statement, the lawsuit would be filed “in an international court”, but no further details on the planned lawsuit were provided. Gulf News reported that Dr Hanna Eissa, part of the Palestinian team preparing the lawsuit, mentioned the International Court of Justice, which can issue non-binding advisory opinions.

A Step Closer to Having the Crime of Agression under the ICC Jurisdiction

1. ilawyer photo - Palestine 30th ratification of the Kampala Amendment… A Step closer to having crime of aggression jurisdiction activated before the ICC

On 26 June 2016, Palestine ratified the amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.

By this ratification, Palestine deposited the thirtieth instrument of ratification which opened the possibility of giving jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) to try the crime of aggression.

Indeed, the provisions of articles 15 bis and ter of the Rome Statute provide that the ICC will not be able to exercise its jurisdiction over this crime until at least thirty States Parties have ratified or accepted the amendments; and a decision is taken by two–thirds of States Parties to activate the jurisdiction at any time after 1 January 2017.  Continue reading

Amnesty International: Israel Must Cease Intimidation of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders

Palestine IsraelAmnesty International issued a report this week calling on the Israeli authorities to end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs) and halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

According to the report, Israel is routinely violating Palestinians’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association in the OPT and are targeting HRDs, including by arbitrary arrest and detention, imprisonment, injury and torture. Israel authorities also are failing to protect HRDs from attacks by Israeli settlers and other extreme right wing activists, and in some cases they have been complicit in such attacks.

The report of Amnesty International lists a number of specific situations where human rights defenders have been intimidated, threatened by death, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.

In February and March 2016, a staff member and the director of Al-Haq, a prominent Palestinian human rights NGO, were subjected to a number of death threats. According to the report, these threats are directly connected to the organisation’s work with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Israeli ministers allegedly made calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, against Omar Barghouti, a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist, at an anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanction conference in Jerusalem on 28 March 2016. Continue reading

UN votes to Allow Palestinian Flag to be Raised over UN

Palestine FlagThe United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday voting in favour of raising a flag of Palestine at its headquarters in New York City.

119 states voted in favour, while eight voted against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, United States) and there were 45 abstentions. European nations were divided on the move with France and Sweden voting in favour while others such as Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Cyprus abstained.

The new resolution comes amid growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood, with several states showing their support in the past year.

The move is of symbolic relevance in highlighting Palestinian aspirations for statehood. “It is a symbolic thing, but another step to solidify the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, ahead of the vote.

Both Israel and the United States have expressed strong opposition, with Israel’s UN ambassador Ron Prosor slamming the move as “a blatant attempt to hijack the UN”.

Palestine has non-member observer status at the UN, together with the Holy See. But late August, the Vatican had asked the Palestinian UN mission to remove all references to it from the draft resolution calling for the flags of Palestine and the Holy See to fly at the UN.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to that of a “non-member observer state” allowing them to take part in assembly debates.

Some 135 countries – many in Asia, Africa and Latin America – now recognise a Palestinian state.

Momentum to recognise a Palestinian state has built over the past years, with Palestine joining the International Criminal Court on 1 April 2015. The Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine, confirming that prosecutors would be looking at the Gaza conflict, as well as other issues that include Israel’s settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands.

Palestine Delivers Information to the ICC

On June 25, 2015, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms. Fatou Bensouda, met with the Palestinian foreign minister, Riad al-Malki, on the cases Palestine wishes to refer under the Rome Statute.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestine, which joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, delivered files to the ICC Prosecutor on two sets of facts that would allegedly amount to war crimes committed by Israel.  The first set would inform allegations of civilian killings and wrongful treatment of prisoners throughout the occupied territories, and more especially 2014 military operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge. The second set of information cover Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The question of whether illegal settlements can amount to war crimes has not yet come before the ICC, but Ms. Bensouda said “The settlements will definitely be part of this examination phase.” While the information delivered by Palestine is not considered criminal evidence, they will inform the Prosecutor’s examination of the situation that began in January 2015 and her decision to possibly open a criminal investigation.

Palestine’s ICC Accession: Risks and Rewards

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej

Handout picture showing Abbas signing international agreements in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signs 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the ICC, in Ramallah on 31 December 2014

On 6 January, the UN secretary-general confirmed that Palestine will accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestine’s accession has, unsurprisingly, prompted certain countries – including Israel, the US and a number of European states – to warn of potentially grave consequences. It is certainly a risky venture for Palestine given political tensions in the region, but it may deter future war crimes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and marks another step towards statehood for Palestine.

Palestine’s accession will confer jurisdiction on the Court in relation to crimes committed within the territory claimed by Palestine. Although Israel has not ratified the Rome Statute, crimes allegedly committed by Israeli nationals in the territory claimed by Palestine will fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The ICC will also have jurisdiction over crimes committed by Palestinians outside the territory claimed by Palestine, including in Israel. Crimes falling within the ICC jurisdiction are limited to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the accession can only confer on the Court jurisdiction over crimes committed after the Rome Statute enters into force for Palestine on 1 April. And until the borders of Palestinian territory are clearly defined and the status of occupied territories resolved, the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction will remain contentious.

In order to bring past crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction, Palestine, on 1 January, lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, retroactively accepting the Court’s jurisdiction. Although in principle such declarations can extend to crimes committed after 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute entered into force, Palestine decided to limit it to crimes committed since 13 June 2014. The declaration, if accepted by the ICC, would therefore bring into the ICC’s jurisdiction last summer’s conflict in Gaza but not earlier military operations. Continue reading

Palestine to join ICC on April 1

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki leaves the ICC at the Hague ©Reuters

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has officially announced that Palestine will join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, 2015. The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute last Friday, January 2.

In addition, the Palestinian government lodged a declaration to the ICC Registrar, Herman von Hebel, under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute stating Palestine’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC since 13 June 2014. The jurisdiction ratione temporis of the ICC over crimes committed in Palestine could therefore cover both Operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge.

To date, 122 countries have ratified the Rome Statute, with the notable exceptions of the United States and Israel.

Palestine Signs the Statute of the International Criminal Court

Mahmoud AbbasLast Wednesday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He signed the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, at a Ramallah meeting.

However, the International Criminal Court will only acquire jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide on Palestinian territory when Palestine will have ratified the Rome Statute.

The signature follows the rejection of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by late 2017.

Eight members of the Security Council voted for that resolution, while it needed the support of at least nine members in order to pass.

“We want to complain. There’s aggression against us, against our land ” […] “The Security Council disappointed us”, Mr Abbas said.

The Palestinian Authority sought to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC back in May 2009 by way of an Article 12(3) declaration. In April 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor determined that since Palestine was an “observer entity,” it could not ratify the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the UN upgraded Palestine’s membership status to that of a non-observer member state. Writing in an op-ed for The Guardian in August 2014, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that the effect of this upgraded status was such that Palestine could now join the Rome Statute.

ICC ASP Accepts Palestine as Non-State Party Observer

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Yesterday, at an open meeting of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held in New York, the ASP accepted Palestine as a “non-state party observer.” This is the same status as that awarded to other non-signatory states to the Rome Statute, such as the United States or Russia.

Rule 94 of the Rules of Procedure states that at the beginning of every session of the Assembly, the President, subject to the adoption of the Assembly, may invite states which are not parties to the Rome Statute and which have not signed the final act nor the statute to attend the assembly proceedings.

Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays identified the acceptance as

“symbolic but adds to the international momentum for Palestinian statehood and has legal repercussions. If Palestine now applies to join the Rome Statute, it will be much harder to reject them. The acceptance clearly brings war-crimes trials against Israelis one step closer.”

The President of the ASP, however, warned that the effect of the acceptance was limited:

“The Assembly takes the following decisions on procedure independently and without prejudice to decisions taken for other purposes, including the decisions of any other organization or any organ of the court concerning legal matters before it.”

The Palestinian Authority sought to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC back in May 2009 by way of an Article 12(3) declaration. In April 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor determined that since Palestine was an “observer entity,” it could not ratify the Rome Statute. In November 2012, the UN upgraded Palestine’s membership status to that of a non-observer member state. Writing in an op-ed for The Guardian in August 2014, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that the effect of this upgraded status was such that Palestine could now join the Rome Statute.

To date, the Palestinian Authority has not taken any further steps to ratify the Rome Statute.

Decision on Flotilla Raid is Latest Turn in ICC’s Consideration of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Dr Miša Zgonec-Rožej*

The decision to not investigate alleged war crimes during the raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010 comes as no surprise, but it highlights the uncertain legal situation surrounding the Rome Statute’s applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Mavi Marmara Passengers

Passengers look down from the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara as the Israeli navy intercepts boats bound for Gaza on 31 May 2010 – ©Getty Images

On 5 November, the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers during their raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla in 2010. Despite acknowledging a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed on one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, the prosecutor concluded that the potential case was not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC. The decision comes as no surprise.

Due to its limited resources, the ICC was never intended to deal with all crimes falling within its jurisdiction. The assessment as to which case meets the threshold of sufficient gravity is based on the scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes and their impact. Given that the court lacks jurisdiction to investigate any other alleged crimes committed in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict or in the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prosecutor concluded that the requisite threshold was not met because the potential case(s) would be limited to an event encompassing a small number of victims of the alleged war crimes. Continue reading