Palestine joins the ICC

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 12:52

By Niklas Jakobsson

The wait is over. On 1 April 2015 Palestine officially became a fully-fledged member of the International Criminal Court. The build-up seemed to take forever and when the day finally arrived it seemed as though the normal work of international justice community came to a standstill as everyone flooded onto social media.

Palestine joining the ICC was announced on 31 December last year, but will now forever be linked to 1 April. But the expected April Fools jokes eluded me and instead I was observing several interesting discussions on what this will mean for the future of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the ICC, US and Israeli relationships, Hamas…you name it.

NGOs and individuals seem to have already jumped at the opportunity to get involved in the Palestine-ICC situation. Submissions have been handed in, accusing one party or another of war crimes and crimes against humanity. What does this mean for the ICC in the long run? Paperwork.

But Palestine joining the ICC does open it up to possible referrals from other member states. While a lot of the media coverage this year has focused on the possibility of Israeli officials in the docks of the ICC, Palestine is now liable for any war crimes carried out by its nationals, by the state or on its territory.

Moving away from the more light-hearted approach to the developments, we find several pressing questions on which obstacles the ICC might face when investigating possible crimes in the region.

Palestine’s move to join the ICC had gained a lot of support (and some opposition), and that didn’t change when they finally crossed the finish line to become a state party to the Rome Statute.

But a lot of the opposition, the majority in fact, came from the government of Israel. This included withholding tax payments to Palestine worth several hundred million dollars. So how does Israel feel about Palestine now being a full member of the Court? There have been a lot of speculation, but this one might hit the mark better than most.

In many ways the Palestinian move to join the ICC has been hailed as a step towards justice and a success for the international community. But looking at the big picture one could argue that Palestine ending up in the ICC dock (or any country doing so for that matter) is more a failure than a success.

Palestine will now be able to refer cases to the ICC, alongside the already ongoing preliminary examination. Other member states and individuals can also refer any situation that they deem to be of sufficient gravity and within the jurisdiction of the Court. But what will happen in that department is for another day. All we do know is that we should expect the unexpected, prepare for the impossible and support any move that brings peace and justice.


  • What will be Palestine’s next step after becoming a member of the ICC?
  • Is the accession of a state to the ICC a success for the international community?
  • Do you think Israel is worried about what the ICC might do?

Picture: ICC Flickr

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