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In Run-Up to Palestine Status Vote, Schalit Called a "Precondition," Issue of Palestine Joining ICC Still Dodged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 8 -- As suspense grows about whether Palestine will this month seek full UN membership through the Security Council, or enhanced Observer State status in the General Assembly, the father of imprisoned Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit spoke with the press at the UN on Thursday.

  He circulated a letter "demand[ing] that the recognition of Palestine as a UN member state be preconditioned on a genuine, explicit and UN-monitored undertaking by the Palestinian Authority to comply with international law and to immediately release our son."

  Inner City Press asked Noam Schalit if this "precondition" meant he'd like to see a provision about his son included in any draft resolution on Palestine.

  He replied that his "interlocutors" had promised to convey the issues to their capitals and that "I cannot be sure what they will be demanding exactly, or if there will be any resolution that this issue will be inside it." Video here, from Minute 31.

  Noam and Aviva Schalit's letter cites the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute that "unlawful taking of hostages is a war crime."

 Inner City Press asked Noam Schalit and the other Schalit family member present, if Palestine can as an Observer State join the ICC, might it help to establish that the continued imprisonment of his son is a war crime, and perhaps aid in releasing him.

  While no direct answer was issued, the Schalit family member accompanying Noam said that whatever status the Palestinian might gain should involve "responsibilities" as well as rights.

  Earlier, Inner City Press asked outgoing President of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss, based on his experience as foreign minister of Switzerland which joined the ICC before joining the UN, if it was his understanding that a General Assembly vote granting Palestine Observer State status would permit Palestine to join the ICC.

  Deiss declined to answer; later, UN Deputy Spokesman Eduardo del Buey told Inner City Press that question was "hypothetical." Inner City Press again asked that head UN lawyer Patricia O'Brien come and give a briefing, something she has repeatedly refused to do. Del Buey said he would check. We'll have more on O'Brien and her Office of Legal Affairs on this issue.

Noam Schalit on Sept 7, with D (diplomat) pass

Footnote: Noam Schalit said that he had France's Ambassador - Gerard Araud - ask Palestinian Observer Riyad Mansour for a meeting, which was rejected without explanation. Later this was explained: given Schalit joint French citizenship, it was thought the Palestinian Mission might react better to France than Israel. It was noted that Noam Schalit UN pass sported a "D" for Diplomat....

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If Palestine Wins UN Observer State Status, Joining ICC to Refer Israel Would Go Through Ban Ki-moon, No Presser in 3 Months

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 6 -- What's at stake if Palestine in the UN General Assembly seeks enhanced Observer State status? One thing is Palestine's possible membership in the International Criminal Court and the ability to refer to the ICC alleged crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.

  The legal adviser of a large European state highlighted this to Inner City Press, predicting that once the Palestinians won Observer State status with 130 or so votes, they would file a request to become party to the ICC's Rome Statute with UN Security General's top lawyer, Patricia O'Brien.

  It was said that while O'Brien might want otherwise, ICC membership for "States" is straightforward even if they are not members of the UN, as Switzerland until recently was not.

  Inner City Press on September 6 asked Switzerland's Permanent Representative to the UN Paul Seger if Palestine would be able to join the ICC if granted Observer State status.

Seger replied with a series of questions: "Does that automatically then allow Palestine to become a member of an international treaty? Each treaty has its own conditions and prerogatives for joining such an instrument. It is up to the member states of each international instrument to decide whether or not the conidtions are met to become a party of that treaty."

Seger turned and asked a Swiss mission staffer, "In case of ICC, who is the depository?"

The Swiss staffer replied, "The Secretary General."

Seger concluded, "So it will be the S-G who will determine whether or not Palestine is qualified to join that."

Ban & Netanyahu shake, Ban answer on ICC for Palestine not shown

  Ban Ki-moon has not held a sit-down question and answer session with the press at UN headquarters for some time -- despite a commitment to do them at least monthly, the last one appears to be a full three months ago, on June 6.

  When Ban held a stakeout upon gaining a second term, his spokesman went out of his way to call on the UN's own radio station for a softball question.  In stakeout's since, he and his team have excluded obvious tough questions.

  Ban's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien has denied several requests to come and give a briefing. It is not in substance a hypothetical question: what will Ban's UN do? Watch this site.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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