The International Criminal Court has officially granted Palestinians observer status at the Court’s summit of 122 member countries on Monday.
The move, which has repeatedly been promised by the Palestinians, is a step toward joining the world's permanent war crimes tribunal. The Hague-based ICC is an independent organization and is not part of the United Nations system.
U.N. ambassador to Palestine Riyad Mansour, said his government is moving in that direction "but that's another step in that process," and the timing will be decided by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Previously, Abbas has vowed to seek membership in the ICC in order to press charges against Israel for alleged war crimes.
The Palestinians officially accepted their observer status at opening session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute that established the ICC. The summit will last for two weeks.
"The Palestinians have been promising to join the court but have repeatedly delayed action," Balkees Jarrah, international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. "We've been calling on them to join the court which could open up the prospect of justice for serious crimes by all sides."
Tina Intelmann, the assembly's outgoing president, read a list of states that have not signed or ratified the statute that requested to participate as observers including Russia, China, India and the state of Palestine. With a bang of the gavel, all those on the list were approved by consensus.
William Pace, convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which includes 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries, said "the significance is both the request and approval without objection," though he said there were no grounds to object.
That's because the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in November 2012 to upgrade the Palestinians' status from a U.N. observer to a non-voting member state, which allows it to be an observer under the rules of the Assembly of States Parties and to ratify the Rome statute and to accept its jurisdiction, Pace said. Previously, the Palestinians could attend as an "entity" without those rights.