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Austria, Lithuania join other countries in opposing ICC’s ruling to probe ‘Israel’ for war crimes

Austria and Lithuania on Tuesday joined other countries in opposing the International Criminal Court ruling that it has jurisdiction to open a criminal investigation into ‘Israel’ for war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“On the recent ICC decision to extend jurisdiction in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Austria’s legal view remains unchanged. We have expressed our concerns in an amicus curiae brief to the Court,” Austrian Foreign Ministry said.

It added, “We do not recognize Palestine as a State and we reaffirm that the ICC decision does not change the status of Palestine under international law, nor does it prejudge the question of future borders.”

“Austria’s strong support for the ICC and the international rule of law remains unchanged. We also remain fully committed to a negotiated two state solution based on international law. Direct negotiations should resume as soon as possible.”

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said it “believes in a two-state solution achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“While supporting the work of the ICC, it is essential to avoid any politicization of the Court, which could diminish its ability to carry out its primary mission,” it tweeted.

Germany, Hungary, the US, Australia, Canada, and the Czech Republic have also opposed the ruling.

Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, said “the court has no jurisdiction because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law.”

“Our legal view on jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court regarding alleged crimes committed in the Palestine territories remains unchanged: the court has no jurisdiction because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law,” Maas said.

He added, “Our positions on #MEPP and the ICC in general remain unchanged, too: Since its foundation, Germany has been one of the ICC’s strongest supporters. We support the establishment of a future Palestinian state as part of a two state solution negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Foreign Minister of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó, also said “Palestine does not have criminal jurisdiction over Israeli citizens.”

“Similar to Israel, Hungary does not agree with this decision. During the legal procedure we already signaled that, according to our position, Palestine does not have criminal jurisdiction over Israeli citizens,” Szijjártó said.

“We have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said. “We believe that peace in the region can only be achieved through negotiations based on mutual respect.”

“The decision of the ICC does not take us closer to this,” Szijjártó added.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also reaffirmed his country’s position that ICC should not get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expressing “deep concerns” about the ruling.

“Australia does not recognize a ‘State of Palestine,’ noting that matters relating to territory and borders can only be resolved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Payne said on Saturday.

“We made clear in our observations submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber that Australia does not therefore recognize the right of any so-called ‘State of Palestine’ to accede to the Rome Statute. The [ICC] should not exercise jurisdiction in this matter.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau also said his country “is firmly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“Canada strongly supports the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the important work that it does as a key pillar of the rules-based international order. Canada continues to respect the independence of its judges and of the ICC Prosecutor,” Garneau said.

“Canada is firmly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We continue to support the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The creation of a Palestinian state can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.

“The President of the Czech Republic Mr. Miloš Zeman has been informed about the decision of the International Criminal Court of 5 February 2021, according to which the ICC can judge alleged war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories,” Jiri Ovcacek, Director of the Press Department and Spokesman for the President, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“However, Palestine is not internationally recognized as a state. The two-state solution must be achieved through a dialogue between the two parties, not by a court decision!” Ovcacek stated.

“The Czech Republic is a long-term supporter of the goals and values of the International Criminal Court. However, justice requires strict adherence to international law, incl. the Rome Statute.”

“Unfortunately, the court has only ultimately restricted the right of Israeli democracy to defend itself against terrorism,” Ovcacek concluded the statement.

Recently, the International Criminal Court said that its jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by ‘Israel’ in the 1967 war, clearing the way for its chief prosecutor to open a war crimes probe into Israeli war crimes.

“The Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine … extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” the judges said.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in 2019 that there was a reasonable basis to open a war crimes probe into Israeli war crimes against native Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

But she asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case.

Palestine has asked the court to look into Israeli war crimes during its 2014 war against the Gaza Strip, when the Israelis killed 2147 Palestinians including women and children, and wounded 10870 others, as well as Israel’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

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