Why did the ICC Prosecutor publicly announce the arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas and Israel

Decision by Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, publicly applied for an arrest warrant for the leaders of Hamas and Israel, this week will be one of the most important and controversial of his career.

khan accused three Hamas leaders on war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the October 7 attack on Israel and Hostage talking. He also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, including the attack on Gaza. hunger of civilians. A three-judge panel will now consider whether an arrest warrant should be issued.

Some countries welcomed the news as a sign that all individuals, regardless of state or status, are equal before the law, while others – including the United States, its allies Israel’s most important – denounced the charges and accused Khan of tantamount to wrongdoing in pursuing an arrest warrant. to the leaders of Hamas and Israel at the same time.

Khan does not need to publicly announce the warrant application. He could wait until they are approved, as with the warrant issued to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia last year — a process that could take weeks or months.

So why is he now so public and ostentatious – not just giving one New information postedbut also social media videos and The interview was pre-recorded with CNN?

The answer partly lies in the extremely polarized nature of this conflict, in which any legal intervention will be subject to scrutiny. It also talks about what the prosecutor’s office hopes to achieve as military action continues in Gaza, famine rages and hostages remain captive.

As things stand, it is virtually unlikely that Netanyahu or Gallant will be arrested on these charges. Even if an arrest warrant is issued, these people will be safe as long as they do not travel to any ICC member state, because Israel does not recognize its court or jurisdiction in Gaza and The court itself does not have the power to arrest. The prospects for arresting Hamas leaders are similarly dim.

But the ICC, established in 1998, has a mandate to pursue cases even when there is little likelihood of cooperation from targeted individuals or the states in which they reside.

When I asked the prosecutor’s office why he chose to go public now, a spokesperson said via email that it was because of Khan’s “significant concerns about the ongoing nature of many of the crimes committed.” allegations cited in the application.”

If war crimes are being committed, legal process is urgent because it can prevent further harm. The role of the ICC, which investigates and tries individuals charged with the most serious crimes, is not just to prosecute Later war crimes are committed but also to prosecute cases of crimes that are still occurring, in the hope of preventing or preventing further violations.

Since the early weeks of the war, Khan has tried to use his bully pulpit role to do just that. In an October speech in Cairo, he warned Hamas that hostage-taking is a crime under the ICC’s Rome Statute, as well as a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions, and called for their immediate release. all the hostages and return them to safety. families.

In the same statement, he described seeing aid trucks lined up at the Rafah intersection, unable to deliver supplies to civilians in Gaza. “Obstruction of relief supplies under the Geneva Conventions may constitute a crime within the jurisdiction of the court,” he said, calling on Israel to make “clear efforts, without delay Furthermore, to ensure civilians receive food, medicine, and basic anesthetics.”

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Khan said his message to the sides in the long-standing conflict is “comply now, don’t complain later.” However, he said, Hamas did not release the hostages and Israel continued to obstruct aid deliveries, leading to “children starving to death.”

Choreography of Monday’s announcement, including Khan’s media appearances and the publication of a separate report by an independent group of expertsappears to be aimed at presenting the evidence for the allegations as fully as possible and preempting some of the criticism that is sure to follow.

Kevin Jon Heller, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and special adviser to the war crimes prosecutor, said: “Karim Khan must maintain the legitimacy of the prosecutor’s office and the Criminal Court. International Affairs. Heller said he was giving his opinion rather than any “inside information” about the prosecutor’s motives, adding: “I think it’s important for the public to better understand the process in this situation than in all the others, because it involves a sitting head of state and a sitting defense minister in a Western-leaning country with very powerful Western friend.”

The group of legal experts has published a report opinion article in the Financial Times, which also emphasized the need for transparency, writing: “This conflict is perhaps unprecedented in the extent to which it has given rise to misunderstandings about the role and jurisdiction of the ICC, a particularly fractured discourse and, in some contexts, even anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

US officials quickly criticized Khan for simultaneously announcing a request for arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, and the leaders of Israel, a democracy. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called the subpoena request “shameful.” “We reject the prosecutor’s assessment of Israel as equal to Hamas,” he said. said in a statement on Monday, noting Khan’s decision to “go to cable TV.”

Netanyahu also said in a statement about Khan’s actions that day: “How dare you compare the monsters of Hamas with the soldiers of the Israeli Army, the most moral army in the world?”

Hamas issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns” the attempt to “equate victims with executioners by issuing arrest warrants for several Palestinian resistance leaders.”

Supporters of the ICC have argued that there is there is no equivalence in the announcement: The prosecutor laid out specific charges against the three Hamas leaders, then, in a separate section, listed a completely different set of charges against Netanyahu and Gallant.

But in a sense, the decision to make demands was also meaningful: a public demonstration that Khan would not discriminate in the application of his law.

“If the ICC supports the idea that the rule of law applies equally to everyone, then when there is evidence of crimes committed in this context and this context,” said Rebecca Hamilton, a law professor at American, Otherwise, the ICC should treat both equally.” University. To do otherwise would risk “sending a message that ‘Well, if you’re an ally of the United States, we’re not going to keep trying to challenge you,'” she said.

In an interview with CNN, Khan described being told by a senior elected leader that the ICC should focus crime in Africa and “thugs like Putin”. He rejects the idea that courts should treat perpetrators differently in rich democracies.

“The way I’ve tried to do it lately is look at the evidence, look at the behavior, look at the victims and take away nationality,” he said.

Some critics of the court have questioned why prosecutors pursued an arrest warrant for Netanyahu but not for Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, who is accused of atrocities. war against its own people. The short answer is that the court has no jurisdiction over Syria.

Although Israel is also not a member state of the ICC, the court’s authority in Gaza stems from Palestine being granted observer status at the United Nations in 2012, allowing it to become a state. member of the ICC and requested the court to investigate. situation in Gaza and the West Bank since June 2014.

This case will be one of the most serious tests the ICC faces in terms of its credibility and, more broadly, the principles on which it was founded.

For now, the most likely consequences will be political. The prosecutor’s role carries enough weight in some countries that his decisions can stigmatize those he accuses of crimes and put pressure on foreign allies.

But the political consequences of such discrimination are not always clear. There have been signs that the accusations have caused Israelis to rally around Netanyahu and Palestinians to rally around Hamas. In the short term, assurance requests may strengthen the parties’ commitment to their existing strategies, which may prolong rather than shorten the conflict. Long-term effects are more difficult to predict.

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