The Palestinian Authority (PA) is ineligible to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it is not a “sovereign state,” spokesperson Jen Psaki said at yesterday’s State Department’s daily press briefing:
Well, let me give you a short answer and then let me take part of this, because there’s a legal answer to this that we can provide to all of you in a more extensive way after the briefing. The United States does not believe that the state of Palestine qualifies as a sovereign state and does not recognize it as such and does not believe that it is eligible to accede to the Rome Statute. There are obviously legal parts of that, so we will send that out to all of you after.
Psaki also the United Nations Secretary-General’s approval of the application was “purely administrative” and “not a judgment on eligibility.”
When asked about Sen. Rand Paul’s (R – Ky.) proposed bill to condition American funding of the PA on the organization’s withdrawing its application for the ICC, Psaki responded, “I will say that obviously there are – we’re taking a look at the law. There’s no question that we will be complying with all laws as it relates to our assistance, of course.”
A report in The Times of Israel clarified Psaki’s remarks:
While Palestinian membership in the court doesn’t automatically incur US punishment, existing law says any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of US financial support. Paul’s bill would ban assistance until Palestine stops its move to become a member of the court.
After his failed bid last week to have terms of a final-status agreement imposed upon Israel by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied to join the ICC in a bid to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes. The move, which was immediately condemned by the United States, carries certain risks. Earlier this week, the State Department said that it would be up to Congress to pass any laws that could reduce or cancel aid to the Palestinians, for defying the United States and applying to the court. In addition, ascension to the ICC would open the PA up to possible prosecution for war crimes. Already the NGO Shurat Hadin has filed complaints against Abbas and other PA officials, who are Jordanian citizens and thus under the jurisdiction of the court, which Jordan joined in 2002.
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