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A Letter to the Italian Prime Minister about Palestine and the ICC

H.E. Mr. Mario Monti

President of the Council of Ministers
Piazza Colonna, 370
00187 Rome

Dear Prime Minister:

We write to express Human Rights Watch’s deep concern regarding your December 17 statement made during a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, in which you call on the Palestinian Authority not to use Palestine's new non-member observer-state status at the United Nations to pursue the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

We were equally dismayed by Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini'searlier November 29 statement explaining Italy's vote on Palestine's UN status, which also called on the Palestinian leadership to refrain from seeking access to the ICC.

These remarks contradict Italy's stated commitment to accountability for serious international crimes. Moreover, to the extent that they were intended to discourage the Palestinians from seeking to ratify the Rome Statute, they are inconsistent with the Council of the European Union’s Decision on the ICC, which, as you know, places an emphasis on the widest possible ratification and acceptance of the court's treaty. Your government recently reiterated this commitment to universality at the ICC Assembly of States Parties meeting held in The Hague in November.

Italy undermines its own credibility on justice issues elsewhere when it discourages the ratification of any international humanitarian law or international criminal treaty. In this case, pressing the Palestinians to forgo international justice options that may be available to them is wrong in principle and will do nothing to advance human rights protections for either Palestinians or Israelis. Indeed, Palestinian accession to the Rome Statute could reduce the accountability gap for grave abuses on all sides. 

Italy's stance on this issue also reinforces both the perception and reality of existing double standards in international justice in which states such as Italy seek international justice selectively. These double standards not only block access to justice, but have also been manipulated by unprincipled critics of the ICC to undermine the court’s legitimacy. Every effort is therefore needed by ICC states parties such as Italy to squarely confront rather than perpetuate these double standards.

Finally, some have sought to justify opposition to the Palestinians’ pursuit of ICC jurisdiction by claiming that it would obstruct a return to negotiations. If anything, the opposite is true: the ICC’s involvement could help to deter the war crimes on both sides that today fuel animosity and make return to peace negotiations more difficult. Moreover, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone on for many decades without much progress toward peace.  Justice is an important end in its own right, preserving the rights of victims and affected communities regardless of the uncertain prospects for peace.

Human Rights Watch opposes any effort to prevent the Palestinians from pursuing justice options that are available to them. Going forward, we urge your government to refrain from any further pressure on the Palestinians to forgo access to the ICC, and to instead support universal acceptance of the court's jurisdiction and work.



Kenneth Roth

Executive Director


Cc:  H.E. Mr. Giuliomaria Terzi di Sant'Agata, Foreign Affairs Minister

Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations

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