Benjamin Netanyahu: International Criminal Court prosecutor seeks arrest warrants against Israeli prime minister and Hamas leaders

Karim Ahmed Khan, Netanyahu, Biden
Karim Ahmed Khan, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor

A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has applied for arrest warrants to be issued for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar over alleged war crimes.

The International Criminal Court has thrown down the gauntlet against the architects of Gaza’s latest unimaginable horror. Prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants for the top leadership of both Israel and Hamas over the civilian carnage this past October – a bold strike at the impunity long enjoyed by those who treat human life as disposable.

Khan did not mince words, accusing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar of the most unconscionable crimes imaginable: extermination, deliberately starving and denying humanitarian aid as weapons of war, and directly targeting civilians. The litany of depravities reads like a bonfire of the Geneva Conventions.

Statement of ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC: Applications for arrest warrants in the situation in the State of Palestine

“On the basis of evidence collected and examined by my Office, I have reasonable grounds to believe that Benjamin NETANYAHU, the Prime Minister of Israel, and Yoav GALLANT, the Minister of Defence of Israel, bear criminal responsibility for  the following war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine (in the Gaza strip) from at least 8 October 2023:

  • Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(b)(xxv) of the Statute;
  • Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health contrary to article 8(2)(a)(iii), or cruel treatment as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i);
  • Wilful killing contrary to article 8(2)(a)(i), or Murder as a war crime contrary to article 8(2)(c)(i);
  • Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as a war crime contrary to articles 8(2)(b)(i), or 8(2)(e)(i);
  • Extermination and/or murder contrary to articles 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(a), including in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity;
  • Persecution as a crime against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(h);
  • Other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity contrary to article 7(1)(k).

“My Office submits that the war crimes alleged in these applications were committed in the context of an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, and a non-international armed conflict between Israel and Hamas (together with other Palestinian Armed Groups) running in parallel. We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy. These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.”

“My Office submits that the evidence we have collected, including interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authenticated video, photo and audio material, satellite imagery and statements from the alleged perpetrator group, shows that Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival.”

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The sheer scale of death and destruction is staggering. Over 35,000 Palestinian casualties by official counts, likely a vast underestimate given the chaos. 1.7 million human beings – the majority of Gaza’s population – rendered homeless as the Israeli war machine pounded entire neighbourhoods into rubble and ruin.

All this senseless cruelty inflicted as brutal collective punishment for the sins of others. An entire society utterly demolished, the century’s most egregious examples of the disproportionate doctrine of ultimate force.

Complicity, it seems, extends to the highest echelons of power. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other Hamas chiefs are also in the ICC’s crosshairs for giving – or enthusiastically receiving – the orders that showered Gaza with such unchecked devastation.

For too long, the powerful have evaded basic accountability under the feeble pretexts of security, counter-terrorism, or simple realpolitik. The ICC’s bombshell warrants represent a rare glimmer of justice piercing that self-serving fog of impunity.

Of course, Israel has long derided the ICC as an institutional overreach, refusing to recognise its jurisdiction. One can already hear the heated denunciations of anti-Semitic witch hunts and judicial overreach emanating from the Knesset.

The question remains. Will these charges hold, or will the Court’s reach exceed its grasp once more? Immense obstacles remain, both legal and pragmatic. But in daring to accuse the architects of Gaza’s annihilation, the ICC has reasserted its founding conviction: that a rule of law must still govern in this increasingly lawless world, even when it implicates the ostensibly unchallengeable.

Still, this bombshell escalation clearly demonstrates the ICC’s refusal to bury its head in the sand when confronted with alleged atrocities, no matter how powerful the alleged perpetrators. The world’s tenuous grasp on accountability just grew a little firmer.

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