REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- The International Criminal Court on Tuesday rejected a Palestinian request to investigate war crimes allegations arising from Israel’s 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip three years ago, saying it had no jurisdiction because a Palestinian state has not been recognized by the U.N. General Assembly.
But ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo appeared to leave the door open for future claims if Palestinians succeed in upgrading their status at the U.N. from "observer" to "non-member state."
In a statement, the Netherlands-based ICC noted that "Palestine has been recognized as a state in bilateral relations by more than 130 governments and by certain international organizations, including United Nation bodies. However, the current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of 'observer,' not as a 'non‐member state.' "
The prosecutor said the court has no mechanism for determining which entities are states, and such decisions should be left to the U.N.
Palestinians expressed disappointment in the ICC ruling. Since 2009, the Palestinian Authority had been hoping the ICC would investigate Israel’s actions during Operation Cast Lead, which left 1,200 Palestinians dead.
Israel denied committing war crimes, but acknowledged some mistakes and isolated crimes, which it said it has prosecuted. Israel invaded the Gaza Strip in an effort to crush the militant group Hamas and stop rockets from being fired into southern Israeli cities.
Israeli officials viewed the court’s ruling with mixed feelings.
"While Israel welcomes the decision on the lack of the ICC jurisdiction, it has reservations regarding some of the legal pronouncements and assumptions in the prosecutor’s statements," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Some believe the decision may reignite Palestinians' efforts to seek a vote in the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade their status.
Although the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership has been stymied by the threat of U.S. veto in the Security Council, a move to upgrade Palestinians' status to non-member state could be taken in the General Assembly, where Palestinians have enough votes and vetoes do not apply.
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo last month in The Hague, Netherlands. Credit: Jerry Lampen / AFP/Getty Images