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PLO envoy: Palestine can join ICC

April 10, 2012 10:18 A.M. (Updated: April 12, 2012 9:42 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestine can still pursue an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes during the last offensive on Gaza at the International Criminal Court, PLO observer to the UN Riyad Mansour said Monday.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on April 3 rejected the Palestinian Authority's request for a tribunal into the December 2008 war because Palestine is not a recognized state.

Mansour told Ma'an the decision did not mark the end of the bid.

"The doors are still open for us if we decide to sign the Rome Statute, or go to the UN General Assembly asking to become a non-member state. This is left for the Palestinian leadership to determine," the PLO official said.

Moreno-Ocampo told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Palestine could become a party to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, if it becomes a UN non-member state.

"As soon as the General Assembly establishes that Palestine is an observer state, then we can proceed," the ICC prosecutor added.

Over 130 members of the 193-member assembly already recognize Palestinian statehood.

President Mahmoud Abbas requested full UN membership at the 15-member Security Council in September, but the bid remains stalled and the US has vowed to veto it.

Israel 'worked quietly' against bid

Following the Hague's rejection of the Palestinian Authority's bid for a tribunal, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said diplomats had worked against the request for an ICC investigation into Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

"Not many understand how much work has been put into this issue," Lieberman said.

"We have kept it out of the media," he added. "The Foreign Minister worked very professionally, discreetly and quietly."

Israel's 3-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, launched in December 2008, left nearly 1,400 Palestinians dead, including 300 children.

According to UN figures, Israel's military destroyed over 3,500 residential homes and made 20,000 people homeless during the 22-day assault.

A UN fact-finding mission tasked with investigating allegations of war crimes found that Israel committed "grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons."

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