ICC welcomes Palestine as its 123rd state party

The Hague, The Netherland (ANTARA News) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday officially welcomed the State of Palestine as new entry during a ceremony at the seat of the Court in The Hague.

Palestine became the 123rd State Party to the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding treaty. On Jan. 1 this year the ICC received a document by the Palestinian government declaring Palestines acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC since June 13, 2014. One day later Palestine also transmitted documents relating to its accession to the Rome Statute.

After reviewing these documents the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, had communicated that the Rome Statute would enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015.

During the ceremony on Wednesday, the ICC's second vice-president, judge Kuniko Ozaki, presented the minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine, Riad Al-Malki, with a special edition of the Rome Statute, as a symbol of their joint commitment to the rule of law.

The ceremony was held in the presence of the president of the Assembly of States Parties, Sidiki Kaba, a number of ICC judges, ICC deputy prosecutor James Stewart and ICC registrar Herman von Hebel.

"Accession to a treaty is, of course, just the first step," Ozaki stated, adding "As the Rome Statute today enters into force for the State of Palestine, Palestine acquires all the rights as well as responsibilities that come with being a State Party to the Statute. These are substantive commitments, which cannot be taken lightly."

Al-Malki added: "As Palestine formally becomes a State Party to the Rome Statute today, the world is also a step closer to ending a long era of impunity and injustice. Indeed, today brings us closer to our shared goals of justice and peace."

From now on the ICC can probe and prosecute alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on Palestinian territory. In January this year the prosecution of the Court already opened a preliminary examination into war crimes on Palestinian territory.

In September last year chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement on the ICCs jurisdiction over Palestine.

"The office's approach to Palestine will be no different if the Courts jurisdiction is ever triggered over the situation," she said. "It is my firm belief that recourse to justice should never be compromised by political expediency."