Ref: 38/2013

PCHR urges President
Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership to follow through on recent
statements they have made, in which they have pledged to sign and ratify the
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Palestinian leadership
must fulfil their responsibilities in ensuring justice and redress for
Palestinian victims of violations of international humanitarian and human
rights law. In light of the continued failure of the Israeli legal system to
provide justice, the Palestinian leadership must seek it through the
international courts. The ICC is the primary institution through which they may
seek to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against the
Palestinian people, and achieve accountability for the countless Palestinian
victims who have been denied access to justice for so long.

 

Since Palestine
was recognised as a non-member observer state to the United Nations, on 29
November 2012, it is now open to President Abbas to sign and ratify
international treaties, including the Rome Statute. On a number of occasions
since, various Palestinian officials have made statements threatening to do so.
Applying for membership of the ICC is not to be used as an empty threat, wielded
as a weapon in a political battle. It is the responsibility of the Palestinian
leadership to sign this and other international treaties, in order to provide
protection for their people.

 

The human rights
situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is worsening year after year. The
Palestinian people continue to be denied their right to self determination. The
situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is deteriorating
under occupation; settlements continue to be expanded by Israel, Palestinian
prisoners in Israeli jails are subjected to ill treatment and even torture,
construction of the annexation wall is ongoing, and demonstrators are subjected
to the excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers. In the Gaza Strip, 1.7
million people are subjected to a heinous form of collective punishment, cut
off from the outside world and forced into de-development. Attacks against
farmers in the border area and fishermen at sea frequently occur and, on
Tuesday 2 April 2013, Israeli forces launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip for
the first time since the conclusion of the November ceasefire agreement.

 

Palestinian
civilians, protected persons of international humanitarian law, are subjected
to relentless attacks by Israeli forces. Over 80% of all casualties during
‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008/9 were civilians. In November 2012, during
‘Operation Pillar of Defence’, civilians were yet again subjected to attack. 102
of the 171 persons killed by Israeli forces were civilians, including 35
children, 14 women, and 3 journalists. More than 95% of those injured were also
civilians. Neither large-scale offensive has been properly investigated, and
their victims have been systematically denied justice.

 

PCHR recognises
that the ICC is the principle independent body which is capable of conducting
such investigations. The State of Palestine should sign and ratify the Rome
Statute without undue delay, and lodge a declaration with the Court’s Registrar
under Article 11 (2) and 12 (3) of the Statute, accepting the exercise of
jurisdiction by the Court from the date of entry into force of the Statute, 1
July 2002.

 

PCHR also urges
the international community to support the efforts of the Palestinian people to
seek justice for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law
through use of the principle of universal jurisdiction.