Friday, June 21, 2024

ICC seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Sinwar

The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" over the October 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent Israeli war in the Gaza Strip, the court’s prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Monday.

Khan said the ICC is also seeking warrants for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as two other top Hamas leaders — Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades and better known as Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader.

The warrants against the Israeli politicians mark the first time the ICC has targeted the top leader of a close ally of the United States. The decision puts Netanyahu in the company of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

A panel of ICC judges will now consider Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

Khan added the charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri include “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention”.

“The world was shocked on the 7th of October when people were ripped from their bedrooms, from their homes, from the different kibbutzim in Israel,” Khan told Amanpour, adding that “people have suffered enormously.”

The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict”, Khan stated.

When reports surfaced last month that the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) was considering this course of action, Netanyahu stressed that any ICC arrest warrants against senior Israeli government and military officials “would be an outrage of historic proportions”, and that Israel “has an independent legal system that rigorously investigates all violations of the law”.

Asked by Amanpour about the comments made by Netanyahu, Khan said: “Nobody is above the law.”

He added that if Israel disagrees with the ICC, “they are free, notwithstanding their objections to jurisdiction, to raise a challenge before the judges of the court and that’s what I advise them to do”.

Located in The Hague, Netherlands, and created by a treaty called the Rome Statute first brought before the United Nations, the ICC operates independently. Most countries – 124 of them – are parties to the treaty, but there are notable exceptions, including Israel, the US and Russia.

That means that if the court grants the application made by ICC prosecutor, and issues arrest warrants for the five men, any country that is a member would have to arrest them and extradite them to The Hague.

Under the rules of the court, all signatories of the Rome Statute have the obligation to cooperate fully with its decisions. This would make it extremely difficult for Netanyahu and Gallant to travel internationally, including to many countries that are among Israel’s closest allies – including Germany and the United Kingdom.

Israel has killed more than 35,400 Palestinians in Gaza since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas that claimed 1,200 lives. The air and ground strikes have reduced the Palestinian enclave to rubble, led to mass internal displacement and shortage of basic necessities.

It also triggered a trial at the International Court of Justice, which in January ordered Tel Aviv to ensure its forces do not commit acts of genocide, and take measures to guarantee humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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