The International Criminal Court (ICC) can only deal with suspected war crimes if a sovereign state initiates an investigation, but this is not the case of Palestine, argues the Czech Republic and Germany in a legal opinion they sent last Thursday to the Hague court.
According to Israeli media, Austria joined the two countries on Friday, which was the last day the ICC member states could have expressed their opinion.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó then wrote the same opinion in a letter to his Israeli counterpart.
Last year, the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda decided to launch an investigation into alleged war crimes as soon as the court’s jurisdiction is confirmed.
Palestine is not a sovereign state
Palestinians have requested an investigation into alleged war crimes since 2015, however, according to an Israeli interpretation, the court cannot deal with the case because the applicant is not a sovereign state.
The ICC is called to deal with cases that the country concerned does not want to or cannot address.
A state, the tribunal’s prosecutor, or the UN Security Council may initiate an investigation.
As for the Palestinian request, the ICC called on its member states to comment on its jurisdiction in the matter by Friday, Feb. 14.
The Czech Republic took this opportunity and sent a letter to the ICC requesting the status of amicus curiae (friend of the court). The status means that a third party, which is not part of the dispute, offers its legal opinion.
The Czech Republic states in its opinion that Palestine does not meet the criteria of a sovereign state and that its membership in international organizations cannot replace the fulfillment of such criteria.
According to internationally recognized rules, any sovereign state should have its government, population, territory and ability to enter into relations with other states.
Hungarian FM Péter Szijjártó tells his Israeli counterpart that Hungary supports Israel’s position on ICC’s lack of jurisdiction in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem? pic.twitter.com/AK3JJT3w9Y
— Noa Landau נעה לנדאו (@noa_landau) January 11, 2020
Regarding UNESCO, Prague acted the same way
The Czech Foreign Ministry indicated that for the same reason, Czechia voted against the admission of Palestine to UNESCO and against granting it observer status in the UN General Assembly.
At the same time, the Czech Republic says in the letter to the ICC that it supports the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, however, according to the Czech diplomacy, Palestine can only become a sovereign state based on an agreement with Israel.
The Israeli daily Haaretz wrote that Israeli officials welcomed Prague’s decision.
According to Israeli media, Germany, Austria, and the Israeli Bar Association also request to get the status of a friend of the ICC in the dispute.
The ICC prosecutor says that both Israel and Palestine committed crimes
Last year, Fatou Bensouda stated that the criteria for the opening of an investigation have been met.
According to the prosecutor, there was a reasonable basis to believe war crimes were committed, both by the Israeli Army and by Palestinian militant organization Hamas.
However, Bensouda asked the court to rule first on whether its jurisdiction applies to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Israel has not joined the ICC, and the Israeli Attorney General believes that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel and that any Palestinian action regarding the ICC is invalid.
In addition to Israel, the United States, Russia, and China do not recognize the ICC either.
The Palestinian National Authority, on the other hand, joined the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2015.
A three-member panel composed of judges from Hungary, France and Benin is to deal with the question of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction.
These judges set a Feb. 14 deadline for “Palestine, Israel, and the victims of the situation in Palestine” to make a written statement on the situation.
According to media reports, Austria, Canada, and Hungary also support Israel in the ICC’s jurisdiction debate.