TEL AVIV – Palestine on Wednesday became the 123rd member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), with a low-key ceremony at the court’s headquarters in The Hague.
The court handles war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
It could exercise jurisdiction over such crimes committed by anyone.
“Accession to a treaty is, of course, just the first step,’’ ICC Second Vice-President Kuniko Ozaki said.
He spoke as he presented Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki with a symbolic special edition of the Rome Statute, the treaty that governs the international body based in the Netherlands.
“Palestine acquires all the rights as well as responsibilities that come with being a state party to the statute.
“These are substantive commitments, which cannot be taken lightly’’ Ozaki said.
Human Rights Watch said that the Palestinian decision to join the court deserved international support, in spite of strong opposition from the U.S., Canada and Israel.
“All countries that support universal acceptance of the court’s treaty should welcome the Palestinian membership,’’ Balkees Jarrah, international justice counsel at the group, said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad Al-Malki, said the world was a step closer to ending a long era of impunity and injustice.
Speaking to Palestinians on radio from The Hague, he said that: “we have been waiting for this moment since the Nakba,’’ he said.
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Nakba, “catastrophe” in Arabic, is the Palestinian term for the dispersal of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as refugees throughout the region when Israel was founded in 1948.
Many fled and some were expelled from their homes by the Israelis, in the war that erupted as neighbouring Arab states invaded the newly-founded state.
The ICC has already started a preliminary probe into whether crimes were committed by anyone on Palestinian territory.
However, an official investigation would be announced if a judge would agree that the evidence gathered in the preliminary probe is a “reasonable basis” on which to proceed. (dpa/NAN)