Arusha, January 6, 2015 (FH) – The Palestinian government has filed a document with the International Criminal Court (ICC) declaring Palestine’s acceptance of ICC jurisdiction for crimes committed on its territory after June 13, 2014.

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The ICC received the document on January 1, according to the Court. It was lodged under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, which is the ICC’s founding treaty.

Palestine’s move is aimed at allowing an international inquiry, notably into crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.

Acceptance of the ICC's jurisdiction is not the same as accession to the Rome Statute, since the UN Secretary General acts as the depositary of the Rome Statute. It is for this reason that on January 2, Palestine sent documents to the UN relating to its accession to the Rome Statute as well as other treaties. The UN is reviewing these documents.

The International Criminal Court is an independent, permanent court that tries individuals accused of the most serious international crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It is up to the ICC Prosecutor to decide if the Rome Statute criteria for opening an investigation are met and if so request authorization from ICC Judges.

Some international organizations that accuse the Israeli army and Hamas of violating international laws in Gaza say ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is avoiding a war crimes investigation there.

In a statement last September Bensouda refuted this accusation. She said the Court did not have jurisdiction since neither of the concerned States were parties to the Rome Statute or had accepted ICC jurisdiction. 

In August, Bensouda received a visit from Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki who “requested clarifications on different mechanisms for a State to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC and generally regarding the legal framework of the Rome Statute”, according to an ICC press release.