by Jerry Alatalo
Democracy Now presented a powerful segment on the current status of Palestinians’ search for justice as victims of Israeli war crimes weeks after gaining membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Amy Goodman talked to John Dugard, emeritus professor of International Law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid, head of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands.
Palestinian membership in the International Criminal Court is a major, historic development in the 60-year difficult relationship between Israel and Palestine, and has the real potential of further strengthening enforcement of international law on Earth. The positive consequences which humanity will experience include, most importantly, the beginning of the end for world leaders’ ability to commit major crimes against humanity with impunity – meaning without being held responsible and accountable for their actions. That is genuine, effective and vital deterrence.
Because of this tremendous development in the delivery of justice for people – the creation and promise of the ICC – mankind has taken a great step forward on Earth where in time all people – weak and powerful – become treated equally before the law. The most beneficial development for the human race moving forward is a growing awareness that the International Criminal Court, through unanimous membership by every nation – each lending focused support, nurture and strengthening – offers the best chance/opportunity for preventing war and increasing peace.
A partial transcript of the discussion:
“We accepted to live under international law. We are a peace-abiding nation, and we really tried politically to end the occupation. We tried by all means to end it, but unfortunate(ly) we were forced to seek justice through the International Criminal Court, which hopefully could stop the Israeli aggression against our people – against our lands, so we can live free and in dignity in our homeland”.
Israel, United States opposed to Palestine International Criminal Court membership…
“Well, they can oppose as much as they want. They can stop the money from going to the ICC, they can shut a building, but they can’t stop justice. I think justice in the end will prevail”.
John Dugard on Palestine ICC membership:
“In the first place, it does give credibility to Palestine’s statehood. Palestine is now a fully fledged member of the International Criminal Court, and even those states in the court system that do not recognize Palestine have to accept that it is a state, at least for the purpose of the International Criminal Court. The other important fact is that it does now provide an avenue for the pursuit of international criminal justice”.
Nabil Abuznaid: What do you want the ICC to investigate?
“Well, I think Palestinians, for more than 60 years they did not have one day of justice. And what is the daily ongoing under the occupation, it is clearly violations of international law. In moving people from their land, in stopping people from their freedom and movement, in attacks on Gaza and killing thousands of people. I’m sure Israel violated every international law in the book in its long occupation of Palestine”.
John Dugard: What Israel crimes are Palestinians seeking to prosecute?
“I think there are three major crimes that the court will be required to investigate. First of all, there is the question of settlements. There are today over 700,000 illegal Israeli settlers in Palestinian territory, and that is an international crime in terms of the Rome Statute and general international law. So, that’s the first crime. The second crime, and probably most important, concerns the recent Gaza conflict – “Operation Protective Edge” – where Israel was responsible for killing 2,200 people, and failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants. So, that clearly is at least a war crime, probably a crime against humanity as well. And there’s also the failure of Israel to treat political prisoners as prisoners of war, which I know is an issue important to the Palestinian Authority”.
Samantha Power: In the past, speaking to Congress:
“There are no shortcuts to statehood, and we’ve made that clear. Efforts, uh, that attempt to circumvent (to outwit; to get the better of by cunning; to get or go around) the peace process – the hard slog of the peace process – are only going to be counter-productive to the peace process itself, and to the ultimate objective of securing, uh, statehood, the objective that the Palestinian Authority, of course, has. So, uh, we have contested, uh, every effort even prior, uh, to the restart of negotiations spearheaded by Secretary Kerry, every time the Palestinians have sought to make a move on a United Nations agency, a treaty etc., we have opposed it”.
John Dugard: Your response…
“Well, I think the strategy of Israel, and also the United States, is simply to allow talks to go on forever and ever, while Israel annexes more land and takes over Palestinian territory. The purpose of the International Criminal Court as I see it is to circumvent the strategy on the part of Israel and the United States, and to make Israel and the United States see and face the issues very clearly – namely that Israel has committed very, very serious international crimes. And, I might add that I’m a South African who lived through apartheid. I have no hesitation in saying that Israel’s crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa”. (emphasis added)
:For seven years I visited the Palestinian territory twice a year, also conducted a fact-finding mission after the “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza in 2008-9. So, I am familiar with the situation, and I’m familiar with the apartheid situation – I was a human rights lawyer in apartheid South Africa. And I, like virtually every South African who visits the occupied territory has a terrible sense of déjà vu – we’ve seen it all before. Except that it is infinitely worse“. (emphasis added)
“And what has happened in the West Bank is that the creation of a settlement enterprise has resulted in a situation that closely resembles that of apartheid, in which the settlers are the equivalent to white South Africans. They enjoy superior rights over Palestinians and they oppress Palestinians. So, one does have a system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territory. And I might mention that apartheid is also a crime within the competence of the International Criminal Court”.
“I think in one respect Israel’s crimes are much worse than South Africa, and that is in respect of its military action against Gaza, where it has not hesitated to kill civilians indiscriminately”.
Nabil Abuznaid: Israeli strikes on United Nations buildings after GPS coördinates supplied…
“Well, I think this is not just the Palestinians saying it. This is Mr. Ban Ki-Moon and the investigation saying that Israelis killed, deliberately, innocent Palestinian civilians who are taking shelter in some of the United Nations buildings, and this is a violation of international law”.
“But, one comment I would like to say as a Palestinian. Regardless to the suffering of the Palestinian people, to our people through all the century, now what happened in Syria. Even in the Netherland we got 15,000 arrive here on boats, hundreds were drowned in the waters. We are not seeking revenge, only we want justice for our people, who did not see one single day of justice. Hopefully that justice will prevail soon”.
John Dugard: United States, Israel are not members of International Criminal Court. Why not?
“Well, the United States has given a number of reasons for failing to become a full member of the International Criminal Court. And, one must remember that neither China nor the Russian Federation are members of the International Criminal Court. There are general reasons given by the United States. In the case of Israel, Israel does not become a party because it has something to hide. It clearly does not wish to see its own military leaders and its political leaders targeted”.
End of segment
(Thank you to Democracy Now at YouTube)
As of January 2015, 123 nations / United Nations observer states have signed and ratified the Rome Statute and are full members of the International Criminal Court.
China is one of 42 nations / United Nations observer states which have neither signed nor ratified the Rome Statute: if any of these states sign the treaty, they immediately ratify or accede and join the International Criminal Court.
The Russian Federation is one of 31 nations / United Nations observer states who have signed the Rome Statute but not yet ratified: these states are one step – ratification – from International Criminal Court membership.
Israel is one of three nations (the other two being the United States and Sudan) which have signed the Rome Statute, but since advised the United Nations Secretary General their intention of not joining the International Criminal Court.
Here is just a partial list (17) of the 73 nations / United Nations observer states which have not joined the International Criminal Court. The list includes some of the most powerful nations on Earth, nations with the largest populations, and nations currently involved in conflicts widely reported by the international press/media. While going over the list of (17) nations, imagine how different conditions on Earth would be were all nations in the world full members of the International Criminal Court.
China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Yemen.
ABOUT THE COALITION FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT www.coalitionfortheicc.org
The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is the largest partnership in the world advancing the cause of international justice. Including more than 2,500 civil society organizations from 150 countries, the Coalition is leading the global fight to end genocide,war crimes, and crimes against humanity through a commitment to the core values of human rights and justice. The Coalition led the global civil society effort to create the International Criminal Court and is now engaged in ensuring the effectiveness, independence, and accessibility of international justice, while also responding to more urgent local and regional developments. The Coalition works with all aspects of the Court, as well as with the broader network of governments, the United Nations, and other institutions involved in the international justice system. Through this committed global partnership, the Coalition’s guiding mission is to make justice universally accessible for victims of the gravest crimes in an effort to secure lasting peace.
Member Organizations & Steering Committee
Our global network consists of leading human rights and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations, international law and justice institutions, and local and grassroots organizations from every region of the world. Coalition member organizations represent a wide range of focus areas, from women and children’s rights to peace and reconciliation issues. The Steering Committee is comprised of a core group of member organizations which provide policy and program coherence for the Coalition’s efforts and activities: Adaleh Center for Human Rights Studies, Amnesty International, Andean Commission of Jurists, Asociación pro Derechos Humanos-Peru (APRODEH-Peru), The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre-Nigeria (CIRDDOC-Nigeria), Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), FORUM ASIA, Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), Human Rights Watch, HURINET-Uganda, Justice Without Frontiers (JWF), No Peace Without Justice, Parliamentarians for Global Action, REDRESS, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, and the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP).
The Coalition’s Advisory Board serves as a global leadership group in support of the cause of international justice and provides strategic guidance on key issues. Chaired by former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Laureate the Honorable Kofi Annan, the Board includes His Excellency Bruno Stagno Ugarte (Vice Chair), His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al- Hussein, the Honorable Louise Arbour, the Honorable Lloyd Axworthy, Dr. Jonathan Fanton, the Honorable Justice Richard J. Goldstone, Ms. Hina Jilani, Mr. Juan E. Méndez, Ms. Pam Omidyar, Mr. William R. Pace (Convenor of the Coalition), Dr. Sigrid Rausing, Ms. Darian Swig, the Honorable Patricia Wald, and His Excellency Christian Wenaweser.
The Coalition is headquartered in New York and The Hague and has regional offices in Argentina, Belgium, Benin, Jordan, Morocco, Peru, and the Philippines.
The Coalition is supported by partners from around the world. Major funding has been provided by the European Union, the Ford Foundation, Humanity United, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Sigrid Rausing Trust, as well as by the governments of Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, and a number of individual donors.