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Rights groups urge state of Palestine to join ICC

Dec. 1, 2012 6:25 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 1, 2012 6:25 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- International human rights groups urged Palestine to join rights treaties and the International Criminal Court after the UN General Assembly admitted the country as a non-member state.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also called on world powers to cease pressure on Palestinian leaders not to join the court.

Thursday's UN vote recognizing Palestine could enable ICC membership, which Amnesty says "would open the door for victims of human rights abuses to seek justice and empower them to claim their rights."

"In particular, it should advance efforts to ensure international justice for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by all sides in the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel," Amnesty Director of International Law and Policy Widney Brown said Friday.

Human Rights Watch Mideast director Sarah Leah Whitson said Thursday that joining the court "could help Palestinian and Israeli victims of human rights abuses and war crimes obtain a measure of justice, something other governments should not try to block."

HRW also urged the Palestinian Authority not to delay joining human rights treaties, after the Palestinian leadership said it was studying the implications of ratifying the conventions.

Pressure by world powers on Palestine not to join the ICC, including by the US and UK, is "particularly alarming in light of reported violations of international humanitarian law committed in Gaza and Israel during recent hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups," Amnesty's Brown said.

"Victims' access to justice is not something to be bartered away," she added.
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