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Statement on International Criminal Court application for arrest of Israeli and Hamas officials

May 20, 2024

Justice For All Welcomes Long-Awaited Arrest Applications for Israeli Officials as a Step Towards Breaking Israeli Impunity

On Monday, May 20, 2024, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan announced that he applied for arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine since at least October 8, 2023. Khan simultaneously applied for arrest warrants against three Hamas leaders, Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed DIab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Israel and Palestine since at least October 7, 2023.

Justice For All welcomes the long-awaited arrest applications for two top Israeli officials as a step towards breaking the cycle of Israeli impunity and moving towards accountability for the atrocities Israel has committed in Gaza. While the arrest warrants for Israeli officials were limited in number and scope, they still have the practical effect of isolating Israel, by preventing Netanyahu and Gallant from traveling to countries that are parties to the Rome Statute (124 member states); those countries would need to detain them upon arrival and hand them over to the ICC in order to fulfill their obligations under the Rome Statute.

A veteran war crimes prosecutor, Reed Brody, considers this “a watershed event in the history of international justice,” as the “ICC has never, in over 21 years of existence, indicted a Western official.” Netanyahu has called the arrest warrant “absurd” and Israeli President, Herzog, has called it “outrageous” because it compared those named in the warrants to Hamas. The United States has followed suit in their rejection of this equivalence, as well as denying that the ICC has jurisdiction over this matter. President Biden’s reaction here is in stark contrast to his positive reaction to the arrest warrant for Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in 2023, when Biden said  that the arrest warrant “makes a very strong point” and affirmed that President Putin “clearly committed war crimes”. The United States must apply international law consistently, and not shield political allies from accountability.

On closer inspection, the prosecutor’s announcement is softer and more favorable to Israel. Prosecutor Khan begins with announcing the arrests of 3 Hamas leaders for a list of 8 alleged crimes crimes against humanity and war crimes committed, including rape. Justice For All notes that independent investigations to date have not found credible evidence of the latter.  Khan then announces the arrest of 2 Israeli leaders for a list of 7 alleged crimes committed against Palestinians. Notably missing from this list are rape and torture, despite the numerous credible reports of rape and torture of Palestinian detainees by Israel, including at least 27 who died in custody. Khan also fails to mention occupation, genocide or apartheid, the latter two of which are affirmed by credible international organisations, such as Amnesty International.  Many international bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Watch, have concluded that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation, in spite of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal of its military and civilians.  There is also no reference in the prosecutor’s announcement to the decades long asymmetry characterizing Israel’s violence perpetuated against the Palestinians, and no sympathetic language applied to Palestinian survivors as was applied to Israeli survivors. As the prosecutor indicated, the investigation into crimes and perpetrators is ongoing.

Justice for All has submitted 8 cases of Israeli crimes to the International Criminal Court so far.  The most recent one was submitted on May 19, 2024, regarding the destruction of an estimated 4000 embryos by the IDF in April at Basma Fertility Clinic. We will continue to file submissions of Israeli crimes under international law and advocate for accountability.


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