Creating new perspectives since 2009

Borrell says some European countries are trying to intimidate ICC judges

May 24, 2024 at 1:52 pm

European Commission Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in Brussels, Belgium on February 13, 2024 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images]

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that some European countries are trying to intimidate International Criminal Court judges on the issue of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, Reuters has reported. They must stop “meddling” and respect the court, insisted Borrell.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that he had filed for the warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders.

“The prosecutor has done nothing more than make an accusation and the court will decide,” Borrell told Spanish broadcaster TVE. “In the meantime, I ask everyone, starting with the Israeli government and some European governments, not to intimidate the judges. Don’t threaten them, don’t try to influence their decision, sometimes with threats and very harsh disqualifications.”

Khan accused the three Hamas leaders of crimes including extermination, hostage taking and sexual violence, and the two Israeli leaders of crimes including extermination, using hunger as a weapon and intentionally attacking civilians.

Israel denies committing war crimes in Gaza; claims that the ICC has no jurisdiction there; and has called on countries to repudiate what it considers a politically motivated rogue court. Hamas has also rejected the accusations against its leaders.

READ: Gaza welcomes AP debunking claims of sexual violence by Hamas on 7 October

Several countries have denounced the ICC prosecutor’s decision to seek the arrest of the Israelis, including the United States, Israel’s closest ally, which is not a member of the ICC. On Thursday, Hungary described the warrant request as a “political decision” that discredited the court.

The International Court of Justice, a separate court also based in The Hague, is due later today to rule on a separate request from South Africa to order Israel to halt its offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

In a further step that increased Israel’s political isolation this week, Spain, Norway and Ireland have announced that they will recognise an independent Palestinian state.

Israel says that this amounts to rewarding Hamas for its 7 October cross-border incursion, and would strengthen the Islamic Resistance Movement. Borrell has rejected this claim.

“When it is said that this strengthens Hamas, I see it the other way around, because the Palestinian world is divided between an authority that we recognise, that we fund, that we engage with… and a terrorist [sic] organisation that we regard as such,” he said.

Borrell said that other European countries were considering recognising a Palestinian state, but did not provide further details. He added that criticising the Israeli government´s actions should not be considered as anti-Semitic. “Every time someone takes the decision to support Palestinian state-building, something that everyone in Europe supports… Israel’s reaction is to turn it into an anti-Semitic attack.”

READ: US responds to ICC war crimes probe by inviting Netanyahu to address Congress