U.N. chief confirms Palestine will join ICC

Palestinian authorities formally recognized the ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate 'crimes' committed during the last Gaza war

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the state of Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, a high-stakes move that will enable the Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established the court last Friday, the last formal step to becoming a member of the world's permanent war crimes tribunal.

In a statement posted on the U.N.'s treaty website Tuesday night, the secretary-general said "the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015." He said he was acting as the "depositary" for the documents of ratification.

The Palestinian move has drawn threats of retaliation from Israel and is strongly opposed by the U.S. as an obstacle to reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Palestinian authorities formally recognized the ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate crimes allegedly committed during last summer's Gaza war, the court confirmed on Monday.

"On 1 January 2015, the Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Herman von Hebel, received a document... by the Palestinian government declaring Palestine's acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ICC since 13 June 2014," the ICC said in a statement.

Earlier, a Ramallah-based rights group said the 50-day Gaza war will be part of the first case the Palestinians plan on referring to the court.

However, acceptance of the ICC's jurisdiction differs from accession to the Rome Statute, the Court's founding treaty. The U.N. is still reviewing documents submitted by the Palestinians to join the Court.

The ICC can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute came into force.

The ICC only has jurisdiction from that date onwards, but those joining after that time may nonetheless separately accept the authority of the court for the period before the statute entered into force for them.

To date, 122 countries have ratified the Rome Statute, with the notable exceptions of the United States and Israel.

June 13 of last year was the date Israel began a massive crackdown in the West Bank after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, triggering a series of events which led to the seven-week Gaza war that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people in Israel.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had signed requests to join the ICC and 16 other conventions after the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution paving the way to full statehood.

(With AFP and AP)

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