France: Criminal Court 'Should Not Be Used'

France warned the PA against taking action against Israel in the International Criminal Court should it be granted upgraded status at the UN

Rachel Hirshfeld ,

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius

France on Wednesday warned the Palestinian Authority against taking action against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC) should it be granted upgraded status at the United Nations this week, saying it would damage peace efforts.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced Tuesday that his country would vote in favor of the PA’s request to be granted observer status, thus enabling it to achieve de facto status as a sovereign state and effectively circumvent final status negotiations with Israel.

If the request is approved by the 193 member states of the General Assembly on Thursday, the newly acquired status would provide the PA with access to the International Criminal Court at The Hague and other similar bodies, which would enable it to pursue “war crime” charges and other grievances against the State of Israel.

According to AFP, Fabius claimed that it would be within their rights to join the ICC and pursue Israel should they be granted recognition as a non-member state at the United Nations. He said, however, that such a move would be counter-productive to peace efforts.

"Speaking purely of the law, from the moment there is a recognition of a state, even as a non-member and observer, it would have the possibility of referring such-and-such a state to the court," Fabius told France Inter radio.   

"However if we want to move toward negotiations and find a solution, it is obvious that elements should not be used", he said.

Senior PA official Hanan Ashrawi said Wednesday the Arab entity was facing "intensive pressure" not to sue Israel for war crimes at the ICC, a day before PA chairman Mahmud Abbas is to present the upgraded request to the UN General Assembly in New York.

As an observer, the PA would be able to sign the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, but would need to be accepted by the court's signatories.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can investigate and prosecute international crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

The court can investigate crimes only in states that signed the Rome Statute unless authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

Upon signing, Israel declared that: “Being an active consistent supporter of the concept of an International Criminal Court, and its realization in the form of the Rome Statute, the Government of the State of Israel is proud to thus express its acknowledgment of the importance, and indeed indispensability, of an effective court for the enforcement of the rule of law and the prevention of impunity.

“As one of the originators of the concept of an International Criminal Court, Israel, through its prominent lawyers and statesmen, has, since the early 1950’s, actively participated in all stages of the formation of such a court. Its representatives, carrying in both heart and mind collective, and sometimes personal, memories of the Holocaust - the greatest and most heinous crime to have been committed in the history of mankind - enthusiastically, with a sense of acute sincerity and seriousness, contributed to all stages of the preparation of the Statute. Responsibly, possessing the same sense of mission, they currently support the work of the ICC Preparatory Commission.

“At the 1998 Rome Conference, Israel expressed its deep disappointment and regret at the insertion into the Statute of formulations tailored to meet the political agenda of certain states. Israel warned that such an unfortunate practice might reflect on the intent to abuse the Statute as a political tool. Today, in the same spirit, the Government of the State of Israel signs the Statute while rejecting any attempt to interpret provisions thereof in a politically motivated manner against Israel and its citizens. The Government of Israel hopes that Israel’s expressions of concern of any such attempt would be recorded in history as a warning against the risk of politicization, that might undermine the objectives of what is intended to become a central impartial body, benefiting mankind as a whole.

“Nevertheless, as a democratic society, Israel has been conducting ongoing political, pand academic debates concerning the ICC and its significance in the context of international law and the international community. The Court’s essentiality - as a vital means of ensuring that criminals who commit genuinely heinous crimes will be duly brought to justice, while other potential offenders of the fundamental principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience will be properly deterred - has never seized to guide us. Israel’s signature of the Rome Statute will, therefore, enable it to morally identify with this basic idea, underlying the establishment of the Court.

“Today, [the Government of Israel is] honored to express [its] sincere hopes that the Court, guided by the cardinal judicial principles of objectivity and universality, will indeed serve its noble and meritorious objectives.”