The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced Tuesday that he rejected a complaint filed by the PA against Israel for alleged war crimes during "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza in 2009.
The prosecutor explained that only states can file a complaint with the International Criminal Court. "The Palestinian Authority is only an observer at the United Nations and not a member state.
The prosecutor's office noted that, for its purposes, the recognition of "Palestine" by 130 countries and several international organizations, including UN organizations, was immaterial.
The decision brings an end to a PA bid launched on 22 January 2009 to gain defacto recognition by the ICC by granting the Hague jurisdiction over “the territory of Palestine.”
The PA's declaration purported to invoke Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute, which specifically enables "a state which is not a party to this Statute" to request that the ICC exercise its jurisdiction on an ad hoc basis with respect to an alleged crime in that state’s territory, or involving its nationals.
The Foreign Ministry responded to the decision, "Israel notes the decision of the Prosecutor International Criminal Court, that it does not have jurisdiction to hear complaints from the PA at this time."
"Israel made it clear from the beginning that the ICC had no jurisdiction to hear such complaints and welcomes the prosecutor’s decision to that effect,” it added.
ICC authority is derived from the Rome Statute. In 2002, both the United States and Israel, "unsigned" the Rome Statute, indicating that they no longer intend to become states parties and, as such, they have no legal obligations arising from their signature of the statute.
Israeli officials have stated they have "deep sympathy" with the goals of the ICC, but are concerned that political pressure on the Court would lead it to reinterpret international law or to "invent new crimes."
It cites the inclusion of "the transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into occupied territory" as a war crime as an example of this trend, while at the same time disagrees with the exclusion of terrorism and drug trafficking.
Israel sees the powers given to the prosecutor as excessive and the geographical appointment of judges as disadvantaging Israel, which is prevented from joining any of the UN Regional Groups.
In other words, the PA's declaration to the Office of the Prosecutor amounted to an official request to confirm that the PA can be considered a state for purposes of ICC jurisdiction.