Ahead of ruling on war crimes probe, ICC asks PA if Oslo Accords still in force

Demonstrators carry banners outside the International Criminal Court, ICC, rear, urging the court to prosecute Israel's army for war crimes in The Hague, Netherlands, November 29, 2019 (AP)

UNSCO Daily Press Brief  /  May 28, 2020

Three judges at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday asked the Palestinian Authority to clarify PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s statement about terminating all agreements with Israel, and whether it applies to the Oslo Accords as well.

The judges — who make up the pre-trial chamber tasked with ruling on whether the court has jurisdiction to open a criminal investigation into suspected war crimes committed on Palestinian territories — have given Ramallah a June 10 deadline to respond to their query.

It is unclear how the Palestinians will respond, but observers say the pre-trial chamber’s interest in the status of the 1993 accords puts Ramallah in a bind: If it renounces the agreement that for the first time granted it autonomy in the areas it claims for its state, and thus hands the keys back to Israel, how can it argue that Palestine is a sovereign state that can transfer jurisdiction to The Hague for a war crimes investigation?

The court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, whose opinion that the court does have jurisdiction to launch the probe is partially based on the Oslo Accords, has been ordered by the pretrial chamber to respond to the Palestinians’ response by June 14.

In a May 19 speech to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Abbas declared that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine “are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements.”

He made those comments in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank in the framework of the US administration’s peace proposal. Abbas also said Israel would have to assume responsibility for the civilian Palestinian population.

“The Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine, with all its consequences and repercussions based on international law and international humanitarian law,” he said.

Abbas claimed Netanyahu’s remarks the day before about the planned extension of Israeli sovereignty over settlements and the Jordan Valley meant Israel had “annulled” the Oslo Accords, which established the PA and kicked off the decades-long peace process, “and all agreements signed with it.” (TOI).