Helena Lyng Blak
3 weeks ago

International Criminal Court Seeks Arrest Warrants for Hamas Leaders, Netanyahu, and More

ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for top Hamas and Israeli leaders, alleging serious war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Den Haag, Netherlands - August 25 2021 : an overview of the buildings of the international criminal court ICC CPI in The Hague — Photo by oliverdelahaye
Den Haag, Netherlands - August 25 2021 : an overview of the buildings of the international criminal court ICC CPI in The Hague — Photo by oliverdelahaye

On Monday, May 20, 2024, International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan announced that he had applied for arrest warrants for both Hamas and Israeli leaders in connection with alleged crimes committed during the war in Gaza. 

According to Khan, he has reasonable grounds to believe that Head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, military Commander-in-Chief Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, also known as Deif, and Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh can be held criminally responsible for a series of war crimes as well as crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, taking hostages, rape and other sexual violence, and torture. 

Concurrently, the prosecutor announced that he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defence of Israel Yoav Gallant can be held criminally responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including starvation as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering, murder as a war crime, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination, and “other inhumane acts”.

“Today we once again underline that international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” said Khan in a statement, continuing, 

“No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity. Nothing can justify wilfully depriving human beings, including so many women and children, the basic necessities required for life. Nothing can justify the taking of hostages or the targeting of civilians.”

Netanyahu and Hamas Respond

Netanyahu responded to the decision, calling it “outrageous,” saying in a statement that, 

“This is like creating a moral equivalence after September 11th between President Bush and Osama Bin Laden, or during World War II between FDR and Hitler.”

He further called the decision a “travesty of justice,” and a “disgrace,” accusing Khan of abusing his authority and encouraging anti-Semitism, before concluding,

“To all the enemies of Israel, including their collaborators in The Hague, I renew that pledge today. Israel will wage our war against Hamas until that war is won. Because never again is now.”

According to Al Jazeera, Hamas also denounced the ICC’s decision, claiming the prosecutor was trying to “equate the victim with the executioner.”

International Reactions

The United States, too, was quick to reject the decision made by the ICC. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought into question the ICC’s jurisdiction over the matter and stated, “We reject the Prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful.”

US President Joe Biden, too, was critical of the ICC decision, saying on Monday that, “there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”

France declared general support for the ICC’s independent work, Al Jazeera writes, but did neither explicitly support nor denounce Khan’s efforts to get arrest warrants for the Israeli and Hamas leaders.

The United Kingdom, like the US, questioned the ICC’s jurisdiction in the matter. According to CNN, a UK government spokesperson said, 

“We do not think the ICC has jurisdiction in this case. The UK has not yet recognised Palestine as a state, and Israel is not a State Party to the Rome Statute.”

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak further described the decision as “not helpful in relation to reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out or getting humanitarian aid in.”

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