In Palestine’s response to the latest request by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for clarification regarding the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s decision to be absolved of all agreements with Israel in response to the latter’s decision to annex a large part of the occupied Palestinian territory, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Malki said Palestine’s decision should have no bearing on the legal issues of the investigation, calling on the ICC to proceed without delay in its investigation of Israeli crimes against the occupied Palestinian people.
On 26 May, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued an “Order requesting additional information” regarding the statement attributed to President Mahmoud Abbas on May 19 ending all relations with Israel and asked Palestine to provide, without further specification, “additional information on this statement, including on the question whether it pertains to any of the Oslo agreements between Palestine and Israel.”
In its response to the Pre-Trial Chamber’s Order, the State of Palestine indicated that the President’s statement “was not made as part of the record of these proceedings and did not in any way purport to, nor does it, legally affect the question presently before the Chamber.”
It said, “As a State Party and a Party to these proceedings, Palestine made its submissions on 16 March 2020, stands by them and has not sought to supplement them. In making those submissions, Palestine assiduously avoided (unlike many other intervening Parties) advancing any argument or claims of a political nature so as to preserve and protect the judicial character of these proceedings. Based on these considerations, Palestine respectfully submits that the Statement has no bearing on and is of no relevance to the legal issue(s) placed before the Chamber by the Prosecutor.”
Malki said that Palestine’s response coincided with the 53rd anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands, including Jerusalem.
He said that the response comes in the context of the legal procedures related to the territorial jurisdiction requested by the ICC Prosecutor, which is assumed has nothing to do with the Palestinian political reality or the Oslo agreements. It was stressed in the response that the President’s statement does not change the situation of the occupied Palestinian territory, but rather reaffirms Israel’s responsibility, as an occupying power, as per the Geneva Conventions and international law.
“A response to the Pre-Trial Chamber’s question requires a proper consideration of context. The Statement was made by President Mahmoud Abbas in response to Israel’s declared plan, as reflected in the Israeli government’s coalition agreement and repeated statements by Israeli officials, including the Prime Minister, to carry out the unlawful annexation of Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation. This plan, if carried out, would violate some of the most basic and critical elements of the legal framework upon which this Court is built,” said the Palestinian response.
“These are clear expressions of the fact that occupation (and annexation) have no bearing or effect upon the sovereignty – including jurisdictional – of the occupied State and that the ability of the Occupying Power to exercise any form of authority in the occupied territory is both transient and subject to the ations set by international law,” it said, adding, “Annexation by Israel would therefore have no bearing on the jurisdiction of the Court,” but rather “implementation of a scheme of annexation would constitute further acts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israeli officials coming within the competence of this Court.”
Malki said in the response that the statement by President Abbas “highlights one important factor about these proceedings, which is that so far the ICC’s involvement in the Situation in the State of Palestine has had no apparent dissuasive effect on Israel and its leadership in regards to its commission of crimes, which continue unabated. This clearly calls for the Pre-Trial Chamber to act decisively and expeditiously in rendering its Decision so that the Prosecution can proceed with its investigation and so that Israeli officials are made aware that, at last, their criminal actions will carry personal consequences. Such a Decision will serve to secure justice for victims, deter further criminal action, and underline the Court’s objective commitment to the law as removed from politics.”
He added: “Because of the need to act promptly, the State of Palestine respectfully requests that the Pre-Trial Chamber consider shortening the deadline for response to the present submissions, pursuant to Regulation 35 of the Regulations of the Court, and that it enquire from Israel whether it intends to respond to the Chamber’s invitation. This would help to avoid unnecessary delays. The Israeli leadership should not be permitted to use the time given by the Pre-Trial Chamber to carry out its criminal plan, but should instead be dissuaded from it by the prompt opening of an ICC investigation.”