The Hague: Arrest warrants applied for against Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

The Hague: Arrest warrants applied for against Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court sees crimes against humanity in the Gaza war and is calling for arrest warrants against Israel’s head of government and the Hamas leadership.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the leader of the terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Jihia al-Sinwar. This was announced by the Court in The Hague.

Chief prosecutor Karim Khan has been investigating alleged crimes against humanity in the Gaza war for months. According to Khan, the ICC judges will issue further arrest warrants against Israel’s Defense Minister Joav Galant as well as Sinwar’s deputy Mohammed Deif and Hamas foreign chief Ismail Hanija. Both sides reacted angrily to Khan’s requests. There was also strong criticism from the USA.

The prosecutor accuses the Hamas leaders of, among other things, “extermination” as well as murder, hostage-taking, rape and torture as crimes against humanity. He called on the terrorist organization to immediately release all Israeli hostages and ensure their “safe return to their families.”

Chief prosecutor refers to international humanitarian law

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Galant are accused by Khan, among other things, of being responsible for starving civilians as a method of warfare as well as indiscriminate killings and targeted attacks on civilians. Khan emphasized Israel’s right to defend its people against all attacks. However, he also stated that this right does not release Israel from its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law.

The Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from Hamas and other groups carried out in Israel on October 7th. According to the health authority, 35,456 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing war so far, although the number, which can hardly be verified independently, does not distinguish between civilians and fighters.

The judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC must now decide whether the requested arrest warrants will be issued. If they consider the allegations to be confirmed, the main proceedings can be initiated against the accused.

Criticism followed immediately – from both sides

Israel sharply criticized the applications against Netanyahu and Galant. Foreign Minister Israel Katz spoke of a “scandalous decision.” This represents “a frontal, unrestrained attack on the victims of October 7th and our 128 hostages in Gaza.” “While Hamas’ murderers and rapists are committing crimes against humanity against our brothers and sisters, the chief prosecutor mentions ours in the same breath Prime Minister and Defense Minister, alongside the despicable Nazi monsters of Hamas – a historic disgrace that will be remembered forever,” Katz said, according to his office.

“This is a complete distortion of reality,” said Netanyahu in a video message published on the X platform that evening. The “absurd” and false request is not only directed against him and Galant, “it is directed against the entire state of Israel.” The motion is an example of a “new anti-Semitism” that has moved from university campuses to The Hague, Netanyahu said, alluding to the pro-Palestinian protests at universities.

Israeli President Itzchak Herzog also rejected the request for an arrest warrant against Netanyahu and Galant as “more than outrageous.” Israeli opposition leader Jair Lapid spoke on Monday of a “complete moral failure.”

The members of the Knesset also reacted with rare unity. The state of Israel is in a just war against a criminal terrorist organization, said the statement adopted on Monday evening by 106 of the 120 MPs. The comparison of Israeli government politicians with Hamas terrorists is scandalous and a clear expression of anti-Semitism, according to Knesset members. “We reject this with disgust. 80 years after the Holocaust, no one will stop the Jewish state from defending itself.”

Hamas calls for prosecution of Israeli commanders

Hamas, for its part, criticized the chief prosecutor’s requests for arrest warrants against its leaders. “His decision compares the victim to an executioner and encourages the (Israeli) occupation to continue the genocidal war,” said a statement carried by the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV channel. In another statement published on Monday evening, Hamas also called for all Israeli commanders to be prosecuted.

Foreign Office: “inaccurate impression of an equation”

According to the Federal Foreign Office, the parallel actions of the ICC chief prosecutor against Hamas and Israel have created a false picture. “The simultaneous application for arrest warrants against the Hamas leaders on the one hand and the two Israeli officials on the other gave the false impression of an equation,” said a spokesman in Berlin. “However, the court will now have to assess very different facts, which the chief prosecutor has presented in detail in his application.”

There was also strong criticism of the actions of the ICC chief prosecutor from the USA. Israel and the Islamist Hamas should not be treated equally, said US President Joe Biden. Biden added that Israel will always stand by Israel in the event of threats to the country’s security. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made similar comments. The fact that arrest warrants for high-ranking Israeli officials were requested along with arrest warrants for Hamas terrorists was “shameful.”

Austria’s Prime Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) had previously complained on Platform Austria is one of the countries that particularly emphasizes Israel’s right to self-defense in the Gaza war.

South Africa welcomes action by chief prosecutor

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on the other hand, welcomed the action of the chief prosecutor. South Africa had repeatedly called on the International Criminal Court to take action against Israel and accused the country of genocide.

Arrest warrants would restrict freedom of movement

Sinwar and Deif are believed to have been hiding in Hamas’ underground tunnel system in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Gaza war more than seven months ago. Hanija, on the other hand, has reportedly been living a luxurious life in Qatar with part of his family for years.

The court has no ability to execute arrest warrants itself. However, this significantly restricts the freedom of movement of those being sought. In the case of arrest warrants, all contracting states of the court are obliged to arrest the accused and transfer them to The Hague as soon as they are in their country. 139 states worldwide have signed the Rome Statute – the treaty basis of the ICC – and 124 of them have ratified it, including Germany. Along with the USA, Russia and China, Israel is one of the states that does not recognize the court. But the Palestinian territories are a contracting state. Therefore, the ICC prosecutor is also allowed to investigate.

Source: Stern

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