Netanyahu and Hamas leaders facing ICC arrest warrants

Netanyahu and Hamas leaders facing ICC arrest warrants

Karim Khan KC

Arrest warrants for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders are among those being sought by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a landmark statement yesterday, Karim Khan KC confirmed that he is applying to the court for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

Mr Khan said: “Today we once again underline 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.

“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 Gallant are accused of bearing criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza since last October and continuing to this day, including using the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.

Israel “has a right to take action to defend its population”, Mr Khan said, but not through “intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population” in Gaza.

“Since last year, in Ramallah, in Cairo, in Israel and in Rafah, I have consistently emphasised that international humanitarian law demands that Israel take urgent action to immediately allow access to humanitarian aid in Gaza at scale,” he said.

“I specifically underlined that starvation as a method of war and the denial of humanitarian relief constitute Rome Statute offences. I could not have been clearer.

“As I also repeatedly underlined in my public statements, those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my office takes action. That day has come.”

Sinwar, Deif and Haniyeh are accused of criminal responsibility for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians, the taking of hostages and the use of sexual violence in war.

Mr Khan said: “I again reiterate my call for the immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and for their safe return to their families. This is a fundamental requirement of international humanitarian law.”

Concluding his statement, the prosecutor said: “Let us today be clear on one core issue: if we do not demonstrate our willingness to apply the law equally, if it is seen as being applied selectively, we will be creating the conditions for its collapse.

“In doing so, we will be loosening the remaining bonds that hold us together, the stabilising connections between all communities and individuals, the safety net to which all victims look in times of suffering. This is the true risk we face in this moment.

“Now, more than ever, we must collectively demonstrate that international humanitarian law, the foundational baseline for human conduct during conflict, applies to all individuals and applies equally across the situations addressed by my Office and the Court. This is how we will prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value.”

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