I’d like to commend to our readers’ attention an excellent article by Yael Ronen in the most recent issue of the JICJ on the declaration lodged by Palestine accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to Gaza, raising the issue whether Palestine qualifies as a state in the sense of the Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute – final version here, SSRN draft here. Here’s an abstract:
On 21 January the Palestinian Minister of Justice lodged with the ICC Registrar a ‘Declaration Recognizing the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court’ over acts committed on the territory of Palestine since 2002. This article concerns three issues regarding the admissibility of this declaration, all of which are linked to the question of statehood. It first argues that the ICC Prosecutor may not assume the existence of a Palestinian state because the Palestinians themselves do not make a claim to that effect. It then examines whether under a purposive interpretation of Article 12(3), declarations should also be admitted from quasi-states. It argues that there is no justification for such a purposive interpretation, as the ICC Statute already contains an adequate mechanism to deal with exceptional situations such as that of the Gaza Strip. Finally, the article examines the consequences of the ICC Prosecutor engaging in questions concerning statehood and recognition. It argues that taking on the Palestine case would open up a Pandora’s Box and risk turning the ICC into a political playing field for aspirant entities in search of international status.
For what it’s worth, I am personally in broad agreement with Yael’s argument, even if I don’t think that it is in principle objectionable for the ICC or for its prosecutor to address issues of statehood purely as preliminary questions. For a different take than Yael’s, Alain Pellet has prepared a legal opinion arguing that the term ‘state’ in Article 12(3) should be interpreted purposefully so as to allow the Palestinian declaration, even if Palestine is not a state as a matter of general international law – see more here on Bill Schabas’ blog. We’ll see, of course, what the Court ultimately makes of the whole thing.