PA Becomes 'Observer' at ICC

PA named an observer at the summit meeting of the countries that are members of the International Criminal Court.

Ben Ariel ,

PA's UN observer Riyad Mansour
PA's UN observer Riyad Mansour

The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Monday became an observer at the summit meeting of the 122 countries that are members of the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Associated Press reported.

The move is a step toward joining the world's permanent war crimes tribunal, PA officials say.

The PA’s UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said Monday his government is moving towards seeking membership in the ICC in order to press charges against Israel, "but that's another step in that process," he added.

The PA’s official recognition as an observer came in a procedural move at the opening session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

Mansour called the assembly's decision "a further enhancement of our status" in the court and in the international arena.

The PA has been threatening for years that it will sue Israel at the ICC. The PA’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, recently met with ICC officials and inquired about the legal procedures necessary for the PA to join the ICC and sign the Rome Statute, thus allowing it to take action against possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

That move came after the PA requested to join 15 international agencies in breach of the conditions of the peace talks that were going on with Israel at that time.

Al Jazeera's Diplomatic Editor James Bays explained that Monday’s move means “that Palestine is now listed as a 'non-state party observer' - exactly the same status as the U.S. or Russia or every other country that is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.”

"In other words, all the ICC signatories now consider Palestine to be a state. The acceptance is symbolic but adds to the international momentum for Palestinian statehood and has legal repercussions,” he added.

"If Palestine now applies to join the Rome Statute, it will be much harder to reject them. The acceptance clearly brings war-crimes trials against Israelis one step closer," according to Bays.

Despite the constant threats to turn to the ICC, PA officials realize that doing so is a calculated risk because it would give Israel a forum to pursue war crimes charges against the PA as well and particularly against Hamas.

In a recent interview, the PA's envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) admitted the PA has no hope of pressing charges against Israel in international courts - because Palestinian terrorist groups are far worse violators of international law themselves.