Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday signed an order establishing a central authority to handle all Palestinian applications to the International Criminal Court in The Hague regarding alleged war crimes by Israel.
The Palestinian Authority applied to join the court at the end of last year and is expected to receive full membership by early April.
According to the presidential decree signed on Saturday, a national committee will be responsible for providing all the documentation required by the ICC and for managing communication with the court, including coordination with
professional elements in both Gaza and the West Bank.
The committee will coordinate the work of the lawyers and legal advisers representing Palestinian families before the court. It will also be responsible for creating explanatory material and coordinating the authority's international public relations effort.
The committee is headed by former chief peace negotiator Saeb Erakat. Its members include prominent Palestinians representing all political factions, including Nabil Sha'ath, Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa Bargouti. Hamas is represented by Ghazi Hamad.
It also includes legal and political advisers from Abbas' bureau, the heads of human rights organizations active in the West Bank and Gaza, representatives of the security services and representatives of the Palestinian media.
"We will also need advice from external and international elements," said a senior Palestinian official. "It is a very complex undertaking, covering the preparation of documents, the collection of evidence and a lot of other field work."
The committee will have several sub-committees dealing with specific issues, such as events in Gaza, settlements and East Jerusalem. The work involved in its creation has been in progress for several weeks.
Abbas allocated a budget to the committee and demand that it provide regular accounting and progress reports.
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