A teenage Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit was abducted from Israeli territory by Hamas terrorists on June 25, 2006. More than 1,900 days later, Gilad – now 25 years old – is still in captivity. He is held incommunicado, denied even a single visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The last time that Gilad’s family heard from him was two years ago. His whereabouts today are unknown.
Holding Gilad Shalit hostage under such gruesome conditions is a war crime in blatant violation of international law.
On September 8, 2011, Gilad Shalit’s family members made a heartfelt appeal to the United Nations press corps to keep the story of Gilad’s inhumane captivity from being forgotten. “Not a minute goes by that we do not feel the terrible pain of separation from our son,” said Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit. “Not a minute goes by that we do not feel overwhelming anxiety about his well-being and fear for his life.”
On September 7th, Noam Shalit met with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice issued this statement following the meeting:
I expressed to Mr. Shalit the solidarity of the United States with him and his family, and I reiterated our strongest condemnation of his son’s detention. As I have said repeatedly in the UN Security Council, Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release Gilad Shalit.
Rice’s statement is good, as far as it goes. But she should have also singled out Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for criticism.
As far back as July 2006, Abbas said he was doing his utmost to secure the release of kidnapped Gilad Shalit. In April 2007, he promised that Gilad Shalit would be released “soon.” Now, in September 2011, the Shalit family’s request for a meeting with Palestinian UN representatives while the family members are in New York – sent through French UN mission channels – was denied without any explanation.
Palestinian President Abbas is either a liar or an increasingly irrelevant figurehead (or maybe a combination of both). His government won’t even extend the courtesy of allowing a visit of Palestinian UN representatives with the Shalit family, more than four years after Abbas’ empty promise that Gilad would be released “soon.”
There are two promises Abbas is intent on keeping. The first is to move forward with the agreement he signed with the Hamas terrorist organization to share power in a new Palestinian government. The second is to move forward with the Palestinian bid for recognition as a UN member state. “Whatever the pressures are,” Abbas said at his presidential compound in Ramallah on September 8th, “I think we are going to the UN . . . this month to submit our application for membership of the UN. When we are a state, we will be a state under occupation. . . and we will talk accordingly and negotiate accordingly.”
While a U.S. veto at the Security Council is expected to block the Palestinians’ bid for full UN member state status, they are likely to go to the General Assembly to obtain “observer state” status, on par with the Vatican, allowing them to join various UN agencies and treaties. Even if the Palestinians succeed in only obtaining an upgrade to an observer state status, they are counting on the fact that they will then be permitted to sign and become a treaty member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would entitle them to bring trumped-up war crime and genocide charges against Israeli officials.
Ironically, as the Shalit family pointed out in a letter sent this month to UN member states, the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court stipulates that the unlawful taking of hostages is a war crime and that “the ‘Elements of Crimes’ promulgated by the International Criminal Court make it clear that an integral element of such a war crime is the intentional use of a hostage for the purposes of extortion.”
If the Palestinians get their wish and become a state party to the ICC, they may find themselves on the receiving end of a prosecution for war crimes based on Gilad’s abduction and inhumane detention, as well as on the rocket attacks launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians.
It is an open legal question whether a General Assembly vote granting “Palestine” observer state status would be enough to permit it to join the ICC, however. United Nations legal officials have refused to respond to requests from reporters for clarification of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s discretion, if any, regarding his handling of documents that must be filed first with his office requesting that the Palestinian observer state become party to the ICC’s Rome Statute. Must he immediately pass the documents on to the court for review, or does he have the authority to delay their transmission to the ICC if he has reason to believe that there are defects in the documents?
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