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Israel's Netanyahu, Gallant in ICC Prosecutor's crosshairs over Gaza war crimes

May 23, 2024 at 7:18 pm

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, at the headquarters of the National Assembly in Caracas, on April 22, 2024 [Pedro Rances Mattey/Anadolu Agency]

With International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan’s arrest warrant requests against Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, the focus has shifted to how the legal process will unfold next, Anadolu Agency reports.

Khan, a renowned British lawyer specialising in international criminal law and international human rights law, has accused Netanyahu and Gallant of “crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

A panel of ICC judges will now review Khan’s request and, if they determine that the evidence presented by the Prosecutor establishes reasonable grounds, the Court will issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant, asserting its jurisdiction over the case.

In a statement regarding the matter, Khan said that the discretion to issue an arrest warrant lies solely with the judges on the ICC panel.

If issued, the arrest warrants will then be sent to the States that are parties to the Rome Statute, which forms the foundation of the ICC, and these countries are obligated to cooperate with the Curt in executing the warrants.

READ: Israel vows not to comply with orders from top UN Court to halt Gaza war

 Khan, if this stage is reached, vowed to work closely with the Court Clerk to ensure that the named individuals are arrested.

He expressed confidence that all countries party to the Rome Statute will treat the requests and resulting judicial decisions with the same seriousness as in other cases and fulfil their obligations.

124 countries recognise Rome Statute

According to the ICC’s official website, some 124 countries have signed the Rome Statute. If an arrest warrant is issued, Israel’s Netanyahu and Gallant could be arrested if they travel to any of these countries.

Although Israel is not a member of the ICC, the Court can prosecute individuals for crimes committed in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, even if Israel rejects it.

Additionally, the Court can request non-member states to enforce arrest warrants, but compliance with such requests is at the discretion of non-member states.

Prosecutor Khan also highlighted this issue, emphasising that he would work within the framework of joint efforts for accountability and justice with non-member countries.

Khan said that “Netanyahu and Gallant bear criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity committed in the Gaza Strip.”

Starving civilians as a method of warfare, intentionally causing great suffering, inflicting serious bodily harm or health damage, and deliberate killings are considered war crimes.

Khan indicated that the Office of the Prosecutor could request further arrest warrants, if deemed necessary, and that international law and the laws of armed conflict would apply to everyone with at least a minimal possibility of conviction.

Meanwhile, Israeli broadcaster Channel 13 assessed that an arrest warrant could be sought for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, but the Court has not yet made a statement on this matter.

Does ICC have authority to arrest Israeli officials?

Although Israel claims that the ICC does not have such authority over the country or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Court dismisses such claims.

In February 2021, the ICC emphasised its jurisdiction over crimes committed in the Palestinian Territories.

Israel’s response

Israeli Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz, said that a special committee was established within the Ministry to address the application for arrest warrants, calling it a “historic disgrace that will be remembered forever”.

Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, in his reaction to the ICC Prosecutor’s arrest warrant request, said that they do not recognise the Court’s authority.

READ: Arrest warrant against Netanyahu, Gallant: Israel is becoming a ‘pariah state’, says expert