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PA Will Raise 'Prisoner Issue' at United Nations

Officials in Ramallah say they will seek a favorable legal opinion at the United Nations forbidding Israel to incarcerate PA terrorists.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/25/2011, 11:56 AM

International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
CC/Vincent van Zeijst

The Palestinian Authority plans to seek the United Nations' support in pressing for the release of wanted terrorists from areas under its jurisdiction who are held in Israeli prisons.

"All the legal preparations are currently in place and we are ready to lodge the case with the UN General Assembly very shortly," Eisa Qaraqei, the Palestinian Minister of Detainees' Affairs, told Gulf News

"We have coordinated the move with the Arab and Muslim states in the UN," Quaraqei added.

Qaraqei said the stage was set for going to the the United Nations after PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas discussed it with Arab League Secretary-General Nabeel Al Arabi.

"We will get the UN General Assembly vote on the advisory international and legal opinion which is not binding but can serve as a basis for UN action," he said.

"The nature of the UN General Advisory opinion will decide our next step, which is approaching the International Criminal Court [ICC] in The Hague," he added.

"We will lodge a complaint with the [International Criminal Court] demanding the trial of the Israeli Prison Service, and certain interrogators," Quraqei added, saying PA officials had consulted extensively with the Legal Department of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Israel treats Palestinian prisoners as criminals and terrorists and detains them in jails based in 1948 territories, which totally contradicts international law," Quraqei claimed.

He stressed a UN General Assembly advisory opinion in favor of the PA would provide Ramallah "with great moral and legal gains."

Legal experts, however, say any legal benefit Quraqei expects to reap would require the PA to accept observer status in the General Assembly and join the International Criminal Court. To date officials in Ramallah have rejected observer status as a half measure.

Further, experts say joining the ICC would be a double-edged sword for the PA as they would potentially open themselves up to litigation as well.

Moreover, absent a request from the United Nations Security Council to hear a case, the ICC is restricted to cases wherein both parties are state actors who have accepted ICC jurisdiction. Further, accused states have the option of conducting their own investigations to circumvent ICC jurisdiction.

Observers note that Israel - along with the United States – formally 'unsigned' the ICC Rome Statute, thereby removing themselves from ICC jurisdiction.

As a result, they say, the PA drive to seek legal opinions in their favor and file suits against Israel in the ICC are strictly propaganda stunts in their ongoing media war with the Jewish state.