Prominent Israeli human rights organizations met last week to discuss the International Criminal Court

Press release

Over the course of two days, representatives of Israeli-based human rights organizations met in Tel Aviv on 4 and 5 June 2006 in the context of a national round-table organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in collaboration with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC).

Lawyers and representatives of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, and Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel discussed the importance of the ICC in the fight against the impunity of alleged perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Experts addressed the conference on the jurisdiction and the functioning of the ICC, with a focus on the historic rights of victims to participate in the proceedings and in the reparation process. Information was given on the status of the ratification of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, and on the efforts that still need to be made in under-represented regions of the world, in particular Asia and the Middle East / North Africa region, in order for the ICC to become truly universal. On the second day of the round-table, participants focused on mechanisms of international justice in general, and the ICC in the Israeli context in particular.

Representative of Israeli and international human rights organizations analysed the official Israeli position vis-à-vis the ICC and noted that:

Israel voted against the Statute on July 17, 1998, joining six other states including the United States, as well as China, Iraq, Libya, Qatar and Yemen.
After signing the Statute on December, 31 2000 with an interpretative declaration on a controversial definition of the war crime of "transfer of population into occupied territory...", the Government of Israel sent a communication to the UN Secretary-General on August, 28 2002, stating that:
" connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on 17 July 1998, [...] Israel does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, Israel has no legal obligations arising from its signature on 31 December 2000. Israel requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty."

Participants criticized the signature by Shimon Perez and John Bolton on August, 4 2002 of a reciprocal bilateral immunity agreement, that forbids the surrender of American or Israeli nationals to the ICC, without the consent of the national’s government.

Participants also analysed the trigger mechanisms for the ICC to have jurisdiction and noted that with regard to Israel, as of today only the Security Council would be in a position to refer a case of a crime committed on Israeli territory or by an Israeli citizen.

The round table participants discussed the need for an organized campaign to raise awareness among Israeli civil society and to urge the State of Israel to accede to the ICC. Further meetings will be organized in the near future for that purpose.

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