Washington, April 3 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) Tuesday rejected the Palestinian bid to pursue claims against Israel over its actions during Operation Cast Lead in late 2008.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement that Palestinians only constitute an “observer” and not a “Non-member State” and thus could not become party to the institution’s founding charter, The Rome Statue.
“[T]he Office has assessed that it is for the relevant bodies at the United Nations or the Assembly of States Parties to make the legal determination whether Palestine qualifies as a State for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute and thereby enabling the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court,” the statement said. “The Rome Statute provides no authority for the Office of the Prosecutor to adopt a method to define the term ‘State.’”
Israel launched Cast Lead in December 2008 to stop the nearly constant rocket fire on southern Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.
The Palestinians have attempted since 2009 to gain full access to the court when they accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction unilaterally. Yet ICC officials until now have been unable to decide on their eligibility as a member state.
The Rome Statue was adopted in 1998, but the court’s main authority to prosecute war crimes, genocide, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity did not come into force until 2002. Although Israel has never recognized the court’s jurisdiction since its inception due to fears about the anti-Israel political pressure the court might receive, it has been “fully supportive of the goals of the court” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website.
Israeli officials applauded the court’s decision on Palestinian eligibility.
“The bottom line is that the ICC has no jurisdiction. We knew that and we said as much since the beginning,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “If the (Palestinian Authority) has any grievance, the proper way to deal with it, is to talk to Israel and try to sort this out directly. Resorting to the ICC or to the U.N. or to any far away institution ... that’s just a waste of time.”