Hague lukewarm about The Hague

Tomorrow is the day that the United Nations votes on Palestine becoming a non-member state of the United Nations. And, pending something totally unthinkable, such a bid is going to sail through.

With recognition of statehood comes a whole host of benefits, one of which is the ability to access the international courts such as the ICC. It seems that everyone is talking about this at the moment. I blogged about it nearly two months ago. As I previously noted, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the previous prosecutor of the ICC, declined to open an investigation into crimes on the Palestinian Territories because the status of Palestinian statehood was in question. Should the UN vote for Palestine to be accepted as a non-member state, I would argue quite strongly that such statehood is no longer in question.

Should Palestine join the ICC, it would be unthinkable for the court not to at least consider an investigation within its territory. The pressure to do so would be great. The ICC badly needs a case outside Africa, and Fatou Bensouda, current prosecutor, knows this. There is none that fits the bill better than Palestine.

So it is with some dismay that I see one of the ICC’s largest member states and biggest contributors – the UK – inching away from any suggestion that Palestine could possibly gain access to the courts. This makes a mockery of international justice, which should be global. The UK should not be standing in the way of the ICC’s ability to investigated.

Today, before the House of Commons, foreign secretary William Hague promised that the UK will not vote against the resolution for Palestine to join. However, in order for them to vote in favour, a couple of conditions had to be met. Hague expressed one of them as follows:

“Our country is a strong supporter across all parties of international justice and the International Criminal Court. We would ultimately like to see a Palestinian state represented throughout all the organs of the United Nations. However we judge that if the Palestinians were to build on this resolution by pursuing ICC jurisdiction over the Occupied Territories at this stage it could make a return to negotiations impossible. This is extremely important given that we see 2013 as a crucial year for the reasons I have described for the Middle East Peace Process.”

I have a certain amount of respect for Hague, but he clearly has not thought this statement through and he is certainly no lawyer. For the past decade. the ICC has been fighting against the perception that justice is totally detached from politics (a statement no one really believes anyway, but is always worth throwing out from time to time). Hague has just trounced all over that ideal.

Anyway, Palestine has strongly suggested that it can’t adhere to such a condition, so the vote will sail through and Britain will abstain. But the ICC should have expected a great deal more for one of its most important backers.

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