(MENAFN - The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) Palestine's membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not affect a recent review € ordered by the ICC's chief prosecutor € of alleged Israeli war crimes in the occupied territories.
"The legal complaint [by Palestine] will be addressed, independent of the current investigation," ICC spokesman Fadi al-Abdullah told The Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
Palestine officially joined the 122-member court on Wednesday after the latter approved Palestine's ratification of the court's founding Rome Statute.
The move came on the heels of a decision by ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to conduct a preliminary examination regarding the prosecution of Israeli officials for possible war crimes committed on Palestinian territory.
"Israeli figures can be prosecuted by the ICC, despite their government not being an official member of the court," al-Abdullah said.
Palestinian diplomats had spoken of lodging a request with the ICC to investigate Israel's devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip last summer, which left over 2,160 Palestinians € mostly civilians € dead and thousands of homes destroyed.
Palestinian officials had announced plans to sue Israel at the ICC for the ongoing construction of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.
Palestine's ICC membership will entail responsibilities, such as contributing to the court's budget and voting for a chief prosecutor and judges, according to al-Abdullah.
Palestine will also be able to vote on ICC bylaws, he added.
Al-Abdullah said that if Palestine decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute, Palestinian officials would still have to cooperate with the tribunal if a lawsuit was opened before the withdrawal.
"An ICC investigation can only be suspended by a [UN] Security Council resolution for a maximum period of 12 months," he said.
According to the spokesman, the Palestinian Authority (AA) can now ask to have Israeli leaders referred to the court for alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territories.
Palestinians can also be prosecuted by the court, as ICC prosecutors are mandated with identifying suspects.
In January, Palestinians formally ratified the Rome Statute € the legal document establishing The Hague-based tribunal.
The move came after an Arab-backed draft resolution at the UN General Assembly seeking a deadline for ending the Israeli occupation failed to win the nine votes needed to pass, with the U.S. € Israel's longstanding, veto-wielding ally € voting against it.
Hours later, PA President Mahmoud Abbas applied for Palestinian membership in 18 international treaties, including the Rome Statute.
The ICC was established in 1998 as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses € such as war crimes and crimes against humanity € in cases where national court systems had failed.
Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It annexed Jerusalem in 1980 € claiming the entire city as its "eternal" capital € in a move never recognized by the international community.