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ICC Chief Prosecutor wants arrest warrants out on Israeli and Hamas leaders

Monday, May 20th 2024 - 20:11 UTC
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Netanyahu (L) and Gallant must be held accountable, Khan insisted Netanyahu (L) and Gallant must be held accountable, Khan insisted

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan announced Monday that he would be seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as well as for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh.

In Khan's view, there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that they should be held accountable for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza and Israel. The ICC's pre-trial chamber was still to approve Khan's request.

“I could not have been clearer,” Khan said. “Those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my Office takes action,“ Khan explained. “My Office seeks to charge two of those most responsible, Netanyahu and Gallant, both as co-perpetrators and as superiors,” he added. Upon making his announcement, Khan also demanded the release of the remaining 128 Israelis held hostages by the terrorist group Hamas.

”The crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy,” Khan's rationale went. “These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day,” he also explained.

For Khan, it was critical to establish equality under the law. “If we do not demonstrate our willingness to apply the law equally if it is seen as being applied selectively, we will be creating the conditions for its collapse,” Khan elaborated. “Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival,” he said.

If the arrest warrants are granted, Netanyahu and Gallant would face accusations of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and willful killing, Khan noted.

Israeli analysts found Khan's announcement most unusual because any news regarding warrants is made public after issuance or at least after the nod from the pre-trial chamber.

“With what chutzpah (insolence or audacity) do you dare compare the monsters of Hamas to the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world?” Netanyahu wondered. “With what audacity do you compare between the Hamas that murdered, burned, butchered, raped, and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, and the IDF soldiers who are fighting a just war that is unparalleled, with a morality that is unmatched?,” insisted Netanyahu, who also subbed Khan’s measure “an utter distortion of the reality” that became an example of “the new antisemitism” that has moved from college campuses to The Hague.

Netanyahu also pledged that the ICC’s “effort to tie our hands will fail” because no international forum will “prevent us from hitting those who seek our destruction.” He added that Israel would topple Hamas and achieve “total victory.”

The Prime Minister spoke of “disgust” regarding Khan's likening between Israel's globally-respected courts whereas Hamas is a non-state actor with no independent judiciary. He suggested that Khan had created “a twisted and false moral equivalence between the leaders of Israel and the henchmen of Hamas and underlined that the arrest warrants against a democratic state would “cast an everlasting mark of shame on the international court.”

“The prosecutor’s absurd charges against me and Israel’s defense minister are merely an attempt to deny Israel the basic right of self-defense,” an attempt that “will utterly fail,” he stressed. It will also undermine the right of “every democracy to defend itself,” he added. Netanyahu spoke of an ”incendiary decision” on Khan's part.

Hamas ordered simultaneous raids into Israeli territory on Oct. 7, 2023, killing over 1,200 people and taking some 252 hostages, of whom 128 remain in captivity.

Khan also said that Sinwar, Haniyeh, and Def were guilty of crimes against humanity. “My Office submits there are reasonable grounds to believe that Sinwar, Deif, and Haniyeh are criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks” on Oct. 7, he said. “These acts demand accountability,” he added while pointing out that there was reason to believe that the hostages had been subject to sexual violence and other atrocious treatments. He then called for the “immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and for their safe return to their families.”

By seeking these warrants, Khan said, “We once again underline that international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all. No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity. “This is how we will prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value,” Khan said.

If signed, Netanyahu would join the ranks of pariah world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute which governs the ICC and does not recognize its jurisdiction. Palestine joined in 2015. At any rate, should the warrants be issued, any of the court’s 124 member-states will be forced to arrest them if they set foot on their territory.

Categories: Politics, International.

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