Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a declaration Thursday asking the International Criminal Court to investigate suspicions of war crimes “committed in Palestine” since June 13, said a nongovernmental Palestinian source who for years has taken part in Palestinian plans to join the court.
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Palestinian government officials have not yet confirmed the source’s comments, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he expects any ICC bid to fail.
The declaration was enabled after Abbas signed the Rome Statute on Wednesday night and requested that the Palestinians join the ICC. The following morning PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat delivered the request, along with 19 letters of accession signed by Abbas, to the United Nations’ main office in Jerusalem. On Friday they will be received by the UN secretary-general in New York.
The request to investigate war crimes was sent to the Palestinian ambassador in The Hague so it could be submitted to the court, the nongovernmental source told Haaretz.
“As far as the Palestinian leadership is concerned, everything that had to be done to join the International Criminal Court has been done,” a PLO official added.
The source said leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad had declared they were willing to risk being tried at the ICC as long as it discusses Palestinian allegations about Israeli war crimes.
During the Gaza war over the summer, Erekat had Palestinian leaders sign a declaration stating they agreed to turn to the ICC, even though Israel might seek the prosecution of Palestinians under war-crimes charges. The Islamic organizations also signed.
In recent weeks, Palestinian leaders, legal scholars and representatives of Palestinian civil society organizations considered demanding an investigation into suspected war crimes between 2002 and 2009, but settled for those suspected since June 13, the date chosen by the commission of inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.
After receipt of the ICC request, the Palestinians would be accepted as a member within 61 days. A PLO official noted on Thursday that joining the ICC lets Palestinian civil society groups begin filing complaints to the court without needing to wait for the PA bureaucracy or Abbas’ decisions.
On the website of Palestinian news agency Wafa, Erekat said Israeli construction in the settlements and their expansion would top the Palestinian agenda at the ICC.