On Hague court visit, Palestinian FM accuses Israel of war crimes

Cnaan Liphshiz

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki accused Israel of war crimes following his visit to the International Criminal Court, which he said the P.A. would try to join this year.

Malki’s visit to the Hague-based court Tuesday came amid growing criticism of Israel from European leaders, including Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, because of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Advertisement: The Grande at Chesterfield

“In last 28 days, there is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel amounting to crimes against humanity,” Malki told reporters after meetings, including with prosecutors, at the ICC. He said Israel “must be held accountable.”

Malki said “the State of Palestine” hopes to be a member of the ICC before 2015, the RTL broadcaster reported.

“Israel left us no choice after its war crimes in Gaza,” he said.

If accepted to the ICC, the Palestinian Authority would be able to sue Israel for war crimes, but may in turn be exposed to similar lawsuits itself if Israel also seeks membership.

Israel is not a member of the court, which was created originally to probe individuals for war crimes and is considered a court of “last resort,” when all the other options are unavailable.

Legal action by the court against Israel could be started pending the unlikely passing of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council authorizing it to act, or if the Palestinian Authority is accepted as a member. In 2009, the P.A.’s bid to join following many civilian deaths during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was rejected.

But in 2012, the U.N. General Assembly accorded the Palestinians Non-Member Observer State status. Legal experts are divided in their assessments on whether Ramallah would be accepted if it re-applied now.

The court can only intervene when a country is found to be unwilling or unable to carry out its own investigation.

Also Tuesday, the NRC daily published an Op-Ed by Timmermans in which he called Israel’s actions “unacceptable,” but also condemned Hamas’ diversion of financial resources away from humanitarian needs for the construction of tunnels to attack Israel.

At about noon, police detained several protesters who held a sit-down protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in The Hague after vowing on Facebook to block access to it. Police declared the area temporarily off limits for demonstrators.