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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Fri Jul 5 10:30:09 2002
Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2002 00:24:20 -0500 (CDT)
From: rootmedia <media@ccsi.com>
Subject: [generalnews] Israel opts out of war crimes court
Article: 141462
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Israel opts out of war crimes court

Reuters, 01 July 2002 13:56 BST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli government has voted against joining the first world criminal court, fearing it might be hauled up to face charges over the building of Jewish settlements on land it captured in war. The decision not to ratify the 1998 Rome Treaty, which established the court, was taken on Sunday hours before the court formally came into existence on Monday.

Seventy-four countries have signed and ratified the treaty, but neither Israel nor its superpower ally the United States has done so.

The Cabinet discussed the international criminal court and decided not to join it, a terse government statement said.

All but one member of Israel's national unity coalition cabinet, dominated by the right-wing Likud and left-wing Labour parties, rejected membership outright.

The danger of politicisation threatens the court (such as) the article largely directed against Israel on the matter of settlements and transferring populations to occupied territory, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said in a memo to the cabinet.

Some 200,000 Jews live in around 145 settlements scattered through the West Bank and Gaza Strip, home to 3 million Palestinians and territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel considers the West Bank and Gaza disputed territory and the settlers regard the land as theirs by biblical birthright. Most countries regard the settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace with Palestinians.

Rubinstein wrote that transfer should refer only to illegal forced transfer of populations cited by the Fourth Geneva Convention in the wake of Nazi war crimes.

An editorial in the dovish newspaper Haaretz on Monday agreed that the article calling the transfer of population a war crime could be used to yield suits against the settlements. That approach must be rejected.

An assistant in Rubinstein's office said Israel was concerned not just by the treaty wording but by the court's general orientation, which it believes would be clear only after it began trying cases -- not expected before the end of 2003.

The court will be able to try anyone -- including heads of state -- for offences including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002.

Its establishment was prompted by massacres in Bosnia during 1992-95 and Rwandan genocide in 1994. The idea was first suggested after the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two.

The United States opposes the court because it fears its superpower status and international presence would make it a prominent target, exposing officials and soldiers on duty abroad to frivolous or ideologically motivated prosecutions.