JERUSALEM (JTA) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague said the court cannot open an investigation into cases related to the 2008-09 Gaza war because Palestine is not a state.
Jose Luis Moreno Ocampo said Tuesday in a statement that it is up to the United Nations or the states that make up the court to determine whether the Palestinian Authority can be a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty. According to the statute, only internationally recognized states can join the international court.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that while Israel welcomes the decision on the lack of ICC jurisdiction, "it has reservations regarding some of the legal pronouncements and assumptions in the Prosecutor’s statement."
The ICC’s decision came in response to a January 2009 request by the Palestinian Authority that the court direct its war crimes tribunal to investigate war crimes cases against Israeli officials stemming from the monthlong Gaza war that began in late December 2008. The request was in the form of a letter filed with the court in which the Palestinian Authority unilaterally accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction.
NGO Monitor had filed a legal brief on the case arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority since it is not a state.
"Throughout this process, the ICC — created to punish the worst perpetrators of war crimes and mass murder — was exploited by several European Union and European-government funded non-governmental organizations, which intensively lobbied the Office of the Prosecutor as part of their campaign to attack the legitimacy of the State of Israel,” said Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor’s legal adviser.