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General News    H3'ed 6/29/13

White House threatens aid cut-off if Palestine joins the ICC

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White House threatens aid cut-off
if Palestine joins the ICC

Franklin Lamb
June 28, 2013

B eirut -- Fatou Bom Bensouda, the Gambian-born deputy prosecutor
of the International Criminal Court (ICC), was never Washington's first
choice to succeed the inveterately self-promoting elitist ICC prosecutor
Luis Moreno-Ocampo. 

And it is doubtful that key Obama administration officials have changed
their minds this week given Ms. Bensouda's impassioned invitation
Thursday to Palestine, urging its accession to the Rome Statute and the ICC,
the former signed and ratified, as of this month, by 122 states with 31
additional countries, including Russia, having signed with ratification
pending in their legislatures.

Visiting Al Jalil UNWRA high school across from Shatila camp here in
Beirut recently, I was asked several questions by students and staff. The
most frequent inquiry, which came as no surprise, was why the Lebanese
government, including those who claim to support the Palestinian cause,
still have not acted to grant Palestinian refugees the same elementary
civil right to work and to own a home that every refugee everywhere,
even in Zionist occupied Palestine, have long enjoyed.

The second most commonly asked question did surprise me a bit. It was
why have the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah not joined the International
Criminal Court (ICC) in order to challenge the criminal, apartheid
regime in occupied Tel Aviv and hold it accountable under international
humanitarian law for crimes against Palestinians that are increasingly
being condemned internationally. This sentiment exists in all 54
Palestinian refugee schools in Lebanon.  

The new ICC Prosecutor Bensouda is encouraging Palestinian leaders
to join the International Criminal Court, as she prepares for the cases that
are likely to be filed with the ICC in the coming months. Addressing this
week's Arab World conference, she declared that her office believes
Palestine qualifies to join the ICC after the UN General Assembly voted
to admit Palestine as a non-member state last November.

The ICC prosecutor's office is rumored in The Hague to be particularly
impassioned and focused on those areas in which Ms. Bensouda, has
particular international legal expertise. With the main area being
international crimes against humanity which arguably since 1948 have
been most egregiously committed by the last remnant of 19th century
colonial enterprises, Israel.

Prosecutor Bensouda and her ICC staff is reported to be particularly intent
on investigating continuing violations of basic humanitarian principles,
standards and rules, and has spoken about the case of Palestinian, Maysara
Abu Hamdiyeh, a cancer-sufferer who died in Israeli custody on June 25 
after the Israeli government rejected repeated international calls and
protests for his release. This, even as its officials conceded that Mr. Abu
Hamidiyeh was no threat to society, and if allowed medical treatment for
his life threatening condition would likely have been successfully treated.
One ICC investigator, who asked for anonymity, stated that she and her
colleagues considered the actions of the Netanyahu government with
respect to the Hamidiyeh and similar cases, to be "sick!"

The White House and its allies are not pleased by prospects for an eventful
next few years at the ICC. What have particularly unnerved outgoing UN
Ambassador, Susan Rice and Israeli PM Netanyahu, are the May 23rd
comments of Ms. Bensouda during the 38th FIDH Congress in Istanbul
which celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Rome Statute which created
the ICC:

"Gone are the days when those who commit international crimes
could be cleansed of their atrocities through a mere hand shake and
a scribble of their initials on a piece of paper which purports to bind
them to conditions that they have no intention of ever observing."

She added: 

"My challenge is to consolidate what has been achieved, to build
on from it, and to answer victims' calls for justice. That is the
promise made in Rome and that is the promise we cannot fail to

One the several parting comments Ms. Rice made on cleaning out her
UN office on her way to become President Obama's National Security
Adviser, was basically a reiteration of her livid expressions made
following last fall's UN General Assembly vote giving Palestine its new
international statehood status. When asked if she considered the UN
vote a repudiation of the Obama administration and her personally,
Ms. Rice scolded:

"That resolution is not going to take them closer to statehood,
or to the ICC!  It may actually make the environment more difficult
for them and public references to the "State of Palestine" do not
make it a sovereign state. Any reference to the 'State of Palestine'
in the United Nations, including the use of the term 'State of
Palestine' on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the
term 'State of Palestine' in the invitation  do not reflect acquiescence
that 'Palestine' is a state."

It may be recalled that in a letter addressed to the Secretary-General of
the United Nations and the President of the UN Security Council
immediately following the General Assembly vote on 29 November
last year, the permanent UN observer of Palestine reiterated his
delegation's position that:

"[A]ll Israeli settlement activities are illegal, constituting grave
breaches of article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus
constituting war crimes, as further determined in accordance with
article 8 (2) (b) (viii) of the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court. Israel, the occupying Power, must be held
accountable for all of the war crimes it is committing against the
Palestinian people." 

This letter was cited by the most recent UN Human Rights Council
(UNHRC) report of February 2013, which also found Israel, as an
occupying power, [is] in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention for "transferring parts of its civilian population into territory
that it occupies."

Adding to all its currents problems, is this week's announcement that
President Obama's "favorite general," Ret. Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright,
will likely cause yet more serious problems for the administration when
details of his suspected leaks of information about a covert U.S.-Israeli
cyber-attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program, for which he
is expected to soon be arrested and indicted. Coming on the heels of
Edward Snowden's NSA leaks, Washington is said to have no patience
whatsoever, for Palestine making more problems and opening an ICC
Pandora's box.

Ramallah is being flooded with threats this month from Middle East envoy,
Tony Blair, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, now on his 5th visit to the
Middle East in as many months, Jordan's King Abdullah II, and reportedly,
several others. The message for Mahmoud Abbas is that the Palestinian
Authority risks a cut-off of funds and US disengagement from any "peace
process" as well as the scrapping  of the rumored "mega economic &
development  package" which Kerry's aides are currently finalizing, if
Palestine goes anywhere near the International Criminal Court.

It's a tough call for President Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters because
Hamas wants Palestine to immediately file cases against Israel at the ICC
and, it appears, so do a large majority of Palestinians in Lebanon and
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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)

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