The decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to join the 15 UN organisations and the call for an international agreement has been seen as a positive and an important one. It aims to force Israel to apply the rules of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories and to enable accountability, thus holding Israel accountable for its human rights violations, bringing perpetrators to justice, as well as providing international protection of those rights.
Amongst the agreements signed by Abbas, there were two basic categories that were essential: one relates to the protection of the rights of the Palestinian people violated by the Israeli occupation, and the other relates to protecting them from the internal Palestinian violations according to what human rights activists saw fit.
Abbas’s decision to sign these agreements came after Israel refused to release the fourth batch of prisoners who were arrested before the Oslo agreement.
The UN said on Wednesday that it had received 13 letters from Palestinian officials regarding joining international agreements and treaties, stating that it will review them to make sure they satisfy their respective legal procedures.
The letters were delivered to the UN Middle East envoy, Robert Serry, and to the office of the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, in New York. Two letters were also sent to Palestinian Authority envoys in Switzerland and the Netherlands regarding joining the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention.
The Director of Al-Haq human rights organisation, Shawan Jabarin, told Safa news agency that joining of the organisations is a right and does not need to be associated with any political bargaining or US pressure and it should be without any deals linked with talks with either the Israelis or Americans.
Jabarin added: “As a people, we must join these conventions and procedures that can throw something in the face of the daily crimes of the occupation, especially the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Geneva Convention and its protocols.”
He said the Palestinian Authority is moving in the right direction and that the agreements are fundamental and essential. He added that in it there is diplomatic and consular protection, including protecting the rights of the Palestinian people and the victims violated by the occupation and to protect the rights of the Palestinians that are violated internally.
Joining the Geneva Convention would ensure more protection for the rights of the Palestinian people, while the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties would ensure the protection of the Palestinian national project, if it is used well, and if there is political will, Jabarin explained.
In the case of the prisoners, Jabarin continued, joining the Geneva Convention would enable Palestine to advocate and consult with Switzerland to convene a conference in Geneva in order to apply the terms of the agreement on the ground and to commit Israel to apply the rules of international law in the Palestinian territories.
A political will
In turn, the Director of Al-Mizan Centre for Human Rights Issam Younis believes joining the conventions will add value to the agreements and provide more relevance, should the political will allow, in order to bring the leaders of the occupation and war crimes to justice, stressing that the pursuit of justice is an important step.
Younis describes how the value of joining these conventions are a new option for the Palestinian people which brings more weight to the seriousness of political and legal clashes with Israel. Younis stressed that “in light of regional developments, it is necessary that our position and our calculations are on the agenda of the international community, so joining the convention gives us greater freedom.”
He explained that the principle of joining puts them in an important position with the UN, and “we seek to be part of the system of the international community, but the world must carry out their moral and legal duties and responsibilities towards the Palestinian people.”
Thus, this step – according to Younis – is important, necessary and is a step in the right direction, “because we are facing a moment of reality where the Palestinian cause has to be re-considered, and with the presence of these international bodies, we can use the new options in the absence of justice and bias to Israel.”
Younis emphasises the need to find justice for the defence of their issues and their rights utilising all means possible.
Accounting the occupation
Member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee, Taysir Khaled, thought the decision to join was a natural right of the Palestinians and the right of the sovereign Palestinian state and is not subject to any discussion or bargains.
According to the Safa agency Khaled said joining these organisations provides a platform to hold the Israeli government accountable for its human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. It also provides the possibility to ask the international community to assume its responsibilities and provide international protection for the Palestinian people.
He added that this endeavour is also needed to ensure Israel takes into account international law in all the Palestinian territories and does not undertake any action that could change the demographic nature and civilisation therein.
Khaled explained that joining the Geneva Convention was a very important step, since the convention criminalises settlement building, as is the case in Article 8 of the Rome Statute.
Khaled confirmed that Palestinian public opinion wants to exercise the sovereign right of the state to join the international institutions. Palestine has become an observer member of the UN and must complete the membership in all UN agencies and bodies.
He claimed Israel fears Abbas’ move and does not consider itself an occupying power thus naturally feels concerned, but “they will be more concerned if we completed this step in deciding to join the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
The Israeli parties and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu oppose the two-state solution and do not want a Palestinian state, but want one country with two systems to perpetuate the policy of apartheid and racial discrimination.
He accused the US administration of destroying the settlement process, saying: “There is no peace process there is the absurdity of negotiations conducted under the auspices of a US exclusive, used by Israel as a cover for the continuation of settlement activities and its violations of Palestinian human rights.”
The US administration has encouraged Israel to continue to act as a state above the law with its exceptional bias towards Israel, and encouraged them to continue with their settlements and the violation of human rights. According to Khaled they also destroyed all chances of reaching a compromise.
Khaled believes the US administration will try to block the measure and impose restrictions and pressure to counteract the Palestinian endeavours in the UN, “but I do not think they will play a battle on behalf of Israel”.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.