Palestine's historic recognition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations brings with it obligations under international law, Amnesty International said today.
The vote at the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday was decided by 138 votes in favour, 41 abstentions, and nine against.
Palestine is in a position to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other human rights and international humanitarian law treaties, bolstering accountability for human rights violations and crimes under international law.
Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, Widney Brown said:
"This 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.
"Palestine should promptly accede to the Rome Statute affirming that it accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes committed since 1 July 2002. It should also accede to related treaties and agreements.
"The victims who suffered during the 2008-2009 conflict have waited too long for justice. Palestine should act quickly to ensure justice is delayed no longer."
Unacceptable pressure to renounce justice
Amnesty is concerned at reports that several states, including the UK and the USA, put pressure on Palestinian diplomats to renounce accountability mechanisms for crimes under international law.
Widney Brown added:
“Victims’ access to justice is not something to be bartered away. This attitude 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 has condemned the continuing failure by both the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza and by Israel to conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations of suspected crimes committed during the 2008-2009 conflict.
Also of particular concern are the threats by Israel that it will withhold money due to the Palestinian Authority because of the UN vote on Palestinian statehood.
Restrictions on movement of goods and people by Israel have already put a stranglehold on the Palestinian economy and forced many Palestinians into dependence on humanitarian aid.
Amnesty has repeatedly urged Israel to lift completely its blockade on Gaza, which imposes a collective punishment on more than 1.4 million Palestinians in clear violation of international law.
Widney Brown added:
"Withholding money or resources will exacerbate the humanitarian situation. Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power, is forbidden from using collective punishment and is responsible for the welfare of those occupied.” More