17 December 2014, NYT: UN: Security Council: Draft Resolution re. Israel-Palestine (PDF)

29 November 2010, International Criminal Court: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (PDF)

DEC. 31, 2014

The International Criminal Court: What You Need to Know


Q. What is the International Criminal Court?

A. It is an institution formally established in 2002 to prosecute suspected perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes including aggression. Countries around the world -- 122 at last count [1] -- have acceded to its charter, the Rome Statute, and accepted its jurisdiction.

Though most Western nations have done so, the United States has not ratified the statute, and critics say [2] Washington supports the court only when its actions suit America's foreign policy agenda. Israel, like Russia and nearly 30 other countries, originally supported the establishment of the court, but has not ratified the statute.

Q. What is its jurisdiction?

A. The court's remit is limited to crimes committed after July 1, 2002, or after the date when the country in question adheres to the treaty.

Cases can be referred to the court by national governments or by the United Nations Security Council. Because the United States would be unlikely to allow the Security Council to refer a case against Israel, the Palestinians hope to bring cases directly to the court.

By adhering to the treaty, though, the Palestinian Authority also opens the door for others to bring cases against it and against Hamas, the group that dominates the Gaza Strip.

Q. What might the Palestinians ask the court to investigate?

A. The Palestinians say that Israel's occupation of lands beyond the 1967 armistice lines, its construction of settlements in occupied territory, and the way it uses military force amount to illegal aggression and war crimes. Israeli military actions in Gaza last summer could be a potential case, but Israel could also bring a case against the Palestinians for firing rockets at civilian targets in Israel.

Q. Why is this step important for the Palestinians?

A. As they pursue statehood, the Palestinians see the court as a powerful tool to bring to bear international pressure on Israel after decades of failed peace negotiations and fitful progress at the United Nations, where they won observer-state status in 2012. [3] On Tuesday, the Security Council rejected a draft resolution [4] that would have demanded an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory by 2017.

Q. What political fallout is expected?

A. Both Israel and the United States Congress are likely to respond harshly to the move. American diplomats have repeatedly warned the Palestinians that joining the court would lead to sanctions. The United States and Israel argue that such unilateral actions before a negotiated solution that would establish a permanent Palestinian state are a violation of the Oslo Accords.

But the step is expected to be well received by the Palestinian public, and to shore up the standing of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose popularity plummeted after the summer conflict in Gaza. In a December poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, four-fifths of respondents favored joining more international organizations, and three-fourths approved of joining the International Criminal Court.

International human rights organizations, [5] including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have also urged Mr. Abbas to join the court.

[1] parties/Pages/the states parties to the rome statute.aspx