Palestinian Authority officially joins International Criminal Court


(JTA) — The Palestinian Authority officially became a member of the International Criminal Court.

A ceremony was held at the Geneva court on Wednesday to mark the P.A.’s ascension.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas signed the requests to join the ICC and other international conventions at the end of December after the United Nations Security Council failed to pass a Palestinian statehood proposal. Israel retaliated by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in tax payments it had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Last week, Israel announced that it would send the tax payments to the P.A.

In a statement at the ceremony, Sidiki Kaba, president of the Assembly of States Parties, said he hoped the accession of “Palestine,” the second state from the Middle East, “will pave the way for other countries in the Middle East who, by adopting the Rome Statute, will strengthen the International Criminal Court in its fight against impunity for mass crimes.” The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC.

In January, ICC prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank. The prosecutors will determine whether preliminary findings merit a full investigation into alleged atrocities and possible charges against Palestinian and/or Israeli officials.

P.A. Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who met with ICC  officials on Wednesday in what were characterized as ceremonial talks, cautioned in an interview on Palestinian radio that “ICC procedures are slow and long and might face lots of obstacles and challenges and might take years.”

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