The International Criminal Court Says It Has Requested Arrest Warrants For Netanyahu And Israel’s Defense Minister

The ICC prosecutor, announced he has charged Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Yoav Gallant with bearing “criminal responsibility” for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The International Criminal Court Says It Has Requested Arrest Warrants For Netanyahu And Israel’s Defense Minister

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that it is submitting applications for arrest warrants for Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its defense minister Yoav Gallant on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It also issued arrest warrants for three senior Hamas’ leaders, the head of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, its military commander-in-chief, Mohammed Deif, and the head of its political bureau, Ismal Hanyieh.  

The ICC is an institution based in the Hague, Netherlands, that investigates and, when necessary, prosecutes individuals accused of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, including genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression

The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced on Tuesday, May 20 that he has charged Netanyahu and Gallant with bearing "criminal responsibility" for war crimes and crimes against humanity "committed on the territory of the State of Palestine from at least 8 October 2023”.

These included starving civilians as a method of warfare, willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health, willful killing or murder, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination and/or murder, persecution and other inhumane acts.

"Those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my office takes action,” Khan said in his announcement. “That day has come.”

He stressed 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,” he said. “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.”

Khan has also charged Sinwar, Deif and Haniyeh for being “criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October 2023 and the taking of at least 245 hostages”.

He had convened a panel of experts in international law to help advise him, particularly on whether they considered there were “reasonable grounds to believe” those named in the warrants had committed crimes.

The panel members – Lord Justice Fulford, Judge Theodor Meron CMG, human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Danny Friedman KC, Baroness Helena Kennedy LT KC, and Elizabeth Wilmshurst CMG KC – published their report on May 20, saying they unanimously agreed with him.

The ICC prosecutor must request the warrants from a pre-trial panel of three judges who take on average two months to consider the evidence and determine if the proceedings may move forward.

Israel is not a member of the ICC, and even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog said the ICC chief prosecutor’s decision was “beyond outrageous,” and added that it shows “the extent to which the international judicial system is in danger of collapsing”.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters the decision "equates the victim with the executioner" and will encourage Israel to continue its "war of extermination" in Gaza.

The sentiment was echoed by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which called the decision a "confusion between the victim and the executioner".

The ICC has jurisdiction over Gaza, occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank after Palestinian leaders formally agreed to be bound by the court’s founding principles in 2015.

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