The International Criminal Court has accepted the status of Palestine, clearing the way for war crimes in the occupied territories to be investigated, Al Jazeera has learned.

Monday's decision amounts to a symbolic victory for the Palestinians who will get a seat at the ICC: In theory, it is now legally possible for war crimes to be investigated in the occupied territories if requested.

The ICC, which is governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

ICC decision clears the way for war crimes investigations

The court, whose headquarters is at The Hague in the Netherlands, is an independent international organisation and is not part of the UN system.

While its expenses are funded primarily by "states parties", the ICC also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

Al Jazeera's Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the acceptance happened at an open meeting on Monday of the assembly of states parties of the ICC.

"What this means is that Palestine is now listed as a 'non-state party observer' - exactly the same status as the US or Russia or every other country that is not a signatory of the Rome Statute," he said.

"In other words, all the ICC signatories now consider Palestine to be a state. The acceptance is symbolic but adds to the international momentum for Palestinian statehood and has legal repercussions.

"If Palestine now applies to join the Rome Statute, it will be much harder to reject them. The acceptance clearly brings war-crimes trials against Israelis one step closer."

Source: Al Jazeera