On April 1, 2015, four months after it joined the Rome Statute, the Palestinian Authority (PA) officially became a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. The practical consequence of this move is that the PA can now bring charges against Israelis for alleged war crimes. PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the court has already launched a preliminary investigation regarding the settlements and regarding war crimes perpetrated during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
The PLO called the PA's accession to the ICC "historic," and PA Foreign Minister Riyadh Al-Maliki said that "Palestine seeks justice, not revenge."
In an article published in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in November 2014, before the PA submitted a formal request to join the ICC, Lebanese journalist Huda Al-Husseini warned about the potential consequences of this move for the Palestinians themselves, as well as for Qatar and Turkey, due to their ties with the Hamas movement and its leadership. Al-Husseini wrote that accession to the ICC could result in a series of charges against Palestinian figures, and also expose Qatar and Turkey to grave accusations of funding terror and even of committing crimes against humanity.
The following are excerpts from her article:
Huda Al-Husseini (image: Alarabiya.net)
Palestinians' Accession To ICC Could Expose Them To Series Of War Crimes Charges
"The PA has threatened that, if the Security Council rejects its draft resolution on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, it will join the International Criminal Court. It did this knowing that experts on international law question the effectiveness of this move... [True,] appealing to the ICC may be the last weapon left to the Palestinians [in their bid] to turn the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into a global cause. However, it is possible that the Palestinians have not considered the implications of this option. PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki [himself] said in an interview on the Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath [TV channel] in July  that joining the ICC would be a double-edged sword, since it could lead to an investigation into war crimes committed by Hamas. Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on May 9,  that 'the Palestinians understand that joining the ICC will expose them as well to prosecution.' According to experts on international law, the PA's move, [intended] to enlist global support, could trigger a domino effect, namely a series of counter-charges in the Hague, which could drastically reduce the scope of support the PA receives. The PA and Hamas, who, along with the rest of the Palestinian factions, support the [move of] joining the Rome Statute, may find themselves facing charges against them. The circle of accused parties may even include senior officials from Qatar, Turkey and other countries, who may be charged with committing crimes against humanity."
Charges Against Hamas Could Jeopardize Qatar And Turkey, Who Take Part In Funding This Movement
"Recently many people have been writing about Qatar and Turkey's direct and indirect support of Hamas. Both countries are hosting Hamas leaders: [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al is in Doha and [Hamas official] Saleh Al-'Arouri is in Ankara. In addition, both [countries] are surely aware of the general trend in international criminal law which broadens the scope of 'aiding and abetting' to include elements who take part in activity that can be defined as criminal.
"Legal studies indicate that the Palestinians can create a problem for the elements that aid them. How? Qatar and Turkey are known to be among Hamas' direct sources of funding. Both have secretly supplied the organization with tens of millions of dollars every year, which served for various purposes. Fatah spokesman Ahmad 'Assaf said in a September 16, 2014 interview on Al-Awda TV that the Hamas leadership in Gaza had received hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign [to help] children, the elderly and martyrs' [families]. However, according to 'Assaf, the funds never reached their destination, and he wondered where they had gone. An ICC investigation of Qatar and Turkey may [also] address allegations regarding their funding of global jihad organizations that are accused of terrorism, such as ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra.
"In recent months there have been reports that Hamas flew funds from Qatar to Turkey, and then transferred tens of millions through [Turkish] money changers. [In this case,] the Turkish government helped by turning a blind eye. This intensive activity is likely to trigger a request for the ICC to investigate the actions of Palestinians living in [Qatar and Turkey], and [it should be borne in mind that] the court's legal tools include the possibility of imposing sanctions. Charges may also be brought against the banks and financial institutions in Qatar and Turkey where this activity took place. All this is a result of broadening of the concept of 'aiding and abetting' to include financial support.
The ICC is likely to act against Hamas officials living in Qatar, Turkey or elsewhere, investigate their military and financial activity, and summon them to appear before it. This [activity] may even include Khaled Mash'al, who was in Qatar during the recent Gaza war. Such an investigation will turn the spotlight on Qatar, which prefers to be in the spotlight of investments and financial success. It may be pressured to prosecute Mash'al and others, or to designate them fugitives from justice.
"The ICC prosecutor-general does not have the authority to prosecute citizens of countries that are not party to the Rome Statute and are therefore not members of the ICC. Qatar, Turkey and the other Arab states are not members of the ICC, but if the PA joins it, the prosecutor-general will be able to investigate Palestinians who live or act in these countries. This means that the ICC will address [issues] pertaining to countries that host Palestinians involved in 'terror' activity - and this may have political, financial and legal implications. If the ICC addresses issues of terrorism and its funding, this will intensify the general global debate regarding the funding [of terrorism]. This could lead to further investigations, which could yield even more investigations, and so on. Moreover, states that are members of the ICC and of [other] international organizations, especially those linked to the UN, could have difficulty maintaining normal relations with countries hosting individuals wanted by the ICC, especially when there are guidelines by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon regarding this issue..."