In the week that Palestine finally became a member of the ICC, the minister of foreign affairs of the Palestinian Authority, Riad al Maliki, was in The Hague to represent Palestine. At a special ceremony at the ICC, Palestine became the 123rd member. Al Maliki made a speech, in which he spoke about Palestine’s expectations.
“This is something that we have tried to accomplish for many years. We failed in our first attempt. I was here in 2009 trying to do that. But after our admission as a non-member state to the United Nations on 29 November 2012, we were able to fulfil the requirements for membership of the ICC.
“What we are seeking from the ICC is justice and not vengeance. We are seeking the end of impunity from a country that has over the years been trying to take advantage of us by discriminating against Palestinians.
“We are here today and tomorrow to push for the respect of human rights for the Palestinian people and the region as a whole. We are not addressing our claim against anyone. What we are asking is something for us. Something that qualifies us to be equal as you all: equal in basic rights, freedom, dignity, respect and the prospects to plan for our future. Something that we have lacked to have for so many years. Dignity for our own people, dignity for ourselves.
“Of course, we don’t expect that things will change immediately. We know that our membership of the ICC is not going to change facts on the ground. The occupation is not going to end tomorrow. And our basic rights are not going to be achieved tomorrow. But at least for our people, they will feel a certain dignity, that there is an institution like the ICC. It will look at the gravity of the situation and the violations committed against them by the occupier.
“We are looking for a place on this planet where we can develop on our own and contribute to building peace, security and stability for the others. This is what we are asking for. So if anyone expects me to take up issues in order to take Israel immediately to that Court, well I’ve said already, we are not seeking vengeance. We are seeking justice. That’s exactly why we are happy to be in The Hague, the capital of justice and peace. We hope that the ICC will respond to our expectations.
“The ICC has no responsibility to end the occupation. Its responsibility is to investigate if there were crimes committed that amounted to war crimes or crimes against humanity. And this exactly is what we have really asked. So the ICC is looking into that matter. This is really its main domain and responsibility. We have to wait and see.
“We asked them to start. They announced on 16 or 17 January that they are starting a preliminary investigation, and they will see if there is enough evidence to open an official investigation. So we have to give them time and space to see if they will reach such a conclusion or not.
“So what we are going to get? What are we aiming for? In the declaration which we have signed, we asked them to look into what Israel has done in the Palestinian occupied territories, starting from 13 June 2014, meaning the Israeli aggression – the latest one – against our people in Gaza. But since we are talking about everything, that could mean everything. The Court could look into each and every item. And they will look into the gravity of the issues. And then focus on this gravity. I think Israeli aggression is one. But also the settlement file is a very important other issue. We are working in Palestine to prepare files in terms of documentation and material in order to help the Court to expedite its own investigation or to focus more on these matters.”
Photo: Janet Anderson/Justice Hub