(Note: See Nov. 30 update below.)
Will the International Criminal Court be used as a political weapon against Israel? Should it?
In 2001, when trying to convince Americans to buy into the ICC, Human Rights Watch promised one thing; now it actively lobbies for the opposite.
Today, Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth criticized a New York Times editorial that he says “ignores key effect of Palestine observer state: possibility of joining [the] ICC and deterring both sides’ war crimes.”
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) November 6, 2012
This is hardly the first time that Human Rights Watch has justified and supported the Palestinian attempt to use the International Criminal Court in The Hague to pursue politically motivated cases against Israel:
- On September 16, 2009, miraculously within less than 24 hours after Judge Richard Goldstone released his notorious U.N. report accusing Israel of war crimes (which he retracted some 18 months later), Human Rights Watch published a detailed press release that “supported the fact-finding mission’s call for the Security Council to refer the Gaza conflict to the ICC”; argued that the ICC was “the obvious international tribunal for war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict”; and documented all of the possible ways that Israeli political and military leaders could be hauled before the ICC, including “if the ICC prosecutor acts positively on a declaration by the Palestinian National Authority requesting the court’s authority over crimes committed in Gaza.”
- While HRW was sometimes cagey on expressing outright support for the formal ICC request submitted by the PA (or rather the PNA, the Palestinian National Authority, as per HRW) there was no mistaking where they stood: “Human Rights Watch called on the ICC prosecutor to make a prompt legal determination on the Palestinian National Authority request, consistent with the ICC’s mandate to end impunity.” Hard to see how that last bit (emphasis added) could be read as anything but outright support.
- In a September 2010 speech to the UN Human Rights Council, HRW called on the 47-nation body to “urge the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to determine in a prompt manner whether he believes the court has jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict. Such a determination will clarify the avenues of international justice available.” Again, HRW made it clear how they wanted the jurisdiction question to be decided: “the parties to varying degrees have thus far not shown a willingness to conduct investigations up to international standards, so international prosecutions may be required.” Indeed, peace talks “in no way lessen the need for accountability. On the contrary, justice for serious violations should be part of the discussion.”
What is so interesting about all of this is that back in 2001, when Americans were debating whether or not to join and support the ICC, Ken Roth’s Human Rights Watch published “Myths and Facts About the International Criminal Court,” and assured the public that the ICC would never “be used to pursue politically motivated cases against Israel.” This concern was nothing but a “myth,” said Human Rights Watch.
And one of the reasons it wouldn’t happen was because of these “Facts”: “Future actions on Israeli or Palestinian territory will be covered only if the ICC treaty is ratified by Israel or by a broadly recognized Palestinian state.” And as HRW’s Tom Malinowski assured us all in a Washington Post op-ed, “That will not happen until after a peace agreement, in which case the likelihood of Israeli military action against Palestinians greatly diminishes.”
Fast forward 11 years. HRW’s Ken Roth is now lobbying for the Palestinian bid to become a U.N. state and ICC member before a peace agreement — and indeed while the PA (or PNA, per HRW) has refused to even sit at the negotiating table with Israel. What happened to their “that will not happen” promise?
Nov. 30 Update:
The moment the UN voted today to call “Palestine” a state, Human Rights Watch, chomping at the bit, fired off this pre-prepared release calling for ICC action and war crimes accountability.
Ken Roth tweeted on it today as well, disingenuously pretending that any international or UN-affiliated process on Israel would be fair and objective: