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Palestinian Territory, occupied: Possibility of Joining the International Criminal Court

(Oct. 15, 2014) Recent media reports quoted the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, as committing himself to taking Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if his demand to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories fails at the United Nations Security Council. (Abbas Vows to Join the International Criminal Court If He Fails at the Security Council [in Arabic], ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (Oct. 2, 2014).)

From his headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas confirmed to reporters his intention to take this step, despite the likelihood that the United States would impose sanctions against the Palestinian Authority if it went ahead with this plan; those sanctions could include cutting its financial aid, amounting to US$700 million per year. (Id.)

Abbas’s statement raises the question of the legal status of Palestine as a state able to join the ICC. In a statement published by the ICC, the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared that “[o]n 29 November 2012, Palestine’s status was upgraded by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to ‘non-member observer State’ through the adoption of resolution 67/19. The Office examined the legal implications of this development for its purposes and concluded that … Palestine could now join the Rome Statute [which established the ICC].” (Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda: ‘The Public Deserves to Know the Truth About the ICC’s Jurisdiction over Palestine,’ ICC website (Sept. 9, 2014).)