ICC Seeking Arrest Warrants

International Criminal Court OTP ICC seeks arrest warrants

~ 23 May 2024 ~

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is seeking arrest warrants in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. The warrants are specifically for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by senior Hamas and top Israeli officials during the Oct 7th attack by Hamas in Israel, and the subsequent and ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The Indictments

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) listed Yahya Sinwar – head of the Islamic Resistant Movement (Hamas), Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, also known as Deif – commander in chief of the military wing of Hamas (Al-Qassam Brigade), and Ismail Haniyeh – head of the Hamas Political Bureau, as being criminally responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Israel, and the State of Palestine (Gaza) from 7 October 2023. The list of crimes included extermination, murder, hostage taking, rape and other acts of sexual violence, torture, and other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity. The ICC submits that the Hamas leaders intended their actions to cause injury, degradation, humiliation, and harm.

The OTP also called for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, stating that they are also criminally responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the State of Palestine (Gaza) from 8 October 2023. The list of crimes committed by Israel included: starvation of civilians as a weapon of war, willfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body or health, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, extermination, murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts. The prosecutor submitted that the crimes are part of an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, and a non-international armed conflict between Israel and Hamas, running concurrently. The crimes continue to date.


In March 2023, the ICC issued warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova for war crimes in Ukraine. It’s interesting that the same arguments that the US made for the ICC to charge Russia in its war in Ukraine, are the same arguments being made for the ICC to charge Israel in its war in Gaza; arguments that the US opposes, which brings a certain element of hypocrisy. The logic that it is appropriate to enforce international humanitarian law on some, but not on allies, is concerning.

There was an outcry that the ICC should not compare Israel’s actions of self-defense to the horrific actions of Hamas on 7 Oct. On the contrary, petitioning for warrants is not a comparison of Israel and Hamas. Each side should be held accountable for its actions. International humanitarian law and the rule of war apply to every country engaging in war and conflict. What would be outrageous is that Israel should be above the law and can bomb children to death with impunity. No country or person is above the law, and there should be consequences for unlawful behavior.

Along that line, it is incomprehensible that in an attempt to interfere and circumvent the international judicial system, 12 US Senators issued threats to the OTP, including his staff and their families, suggesting that if the prosecutor filed charges against Israel, the Senators would seek retribution including sanctions on the ICC, as well as barring the OTP, and their families, from entering the US. It’s one thing to voice an opinion, but it is a whole different thing to threaten a body of international justice, certainly when that body of justice is in The Hague.

Threatening retribution for investigating, charging, arresting, and bringing to justice those who are found to be guilty of committing atrocities is obscene. The Senators are, in effect, saying that it doesn’t matter if Israel is guilty… even of genocide... you cannot touch them. That IS the definition of acting with impunity and it places Israel above the law.

To be clear, the Rome Statute gives the power to the ICC to charge individuals with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It is imperative to the rule of law, accountability, and international justice, that the OTP, be allowed to carry out his duties wherever that may lead. There has been no information put forward by any of the opposition that disputes the evidence that the OTP has based its reason for seeking arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister or Defense Minister. To attack the ICC’s independence and credibility, and to threaten the OTP just because you are not happy with its findings is absurd.

Under Rome Statute Part 3, Article 70 persons can be prosecuted for “offenses against the administration of justice.” Article 70 reads: (d) Impeding, intimidating, or corruptly influencing an official of the Court for the purpose of forcing or persuading the official not to perform, or to perform improperly, his or her duties; (e) Retaliating against an official of the Court on account of duties performed by that or another official. The court has jurisdiction because the target, the OTP, is in The Hague. The US is threatening The Hague with sanctions, something that is not likely to go over easily.

The Wheels of Justice

If the arrest warrants are issued, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be on similar ground as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who also faces an ICC arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine. As with Russia, the warrants could impact international sanctions against Israel and the potential charge of genocide against the country. The warrants could also serve as a travel ban of sorts and put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in 124 countries, including much of Europe.

Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statue, neither is the US for that matter; however, European countries are extremely supportive of the ICC. Should Netanyahu and Gallant travel to Europe, as member states of the court, any country visited would be obligated to hand the Israeli PM and the Defense Minister over to The Hague. Moreover, as Palestine joined the ICC in 2015, the court maintains legal jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories including Gaza and the West Bank. Since Palestine is a member party, it obligates the Palestinian Authority to present the Hamas leaders in The Hague.

As the wheels of justice turn at the ICC, another court is also considering the actions taken by the warring parties. In January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world court, determined that it was ‘plausible’ that Israel had committed genocide in Gaza. Although the court ordered Israel to ensure that its military did not violate the Genocide Convention, it did not go as far as to call for a ceasefire. In the face of the ICC’s pursuit, and additional evidence of atrocity crimes being committed, the ICJ is capable of determining that a charge of genocide against Israel is appropriate.

Craig Mokhiber, former director of the NY office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, gave this assessment: “The state of Israel is on trial at the ICJ, its leaders are subject to an indictment request by the ICC, its allies are subject to cases in national courts, independent human rights mechanisms have condemned them, and millions are in the streets demanding justice. Justice is coming.”

With gratitude… Lara

Photo Credit: “Gesprek met ICC hoofdaanklager Karim Khan 03” by Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken. Licensed under CC By SA 2.0

#thinkingoutloud #larakajs #Gaza #genocide #ICC #ICJ #Israel #Hamas #crimesagainsthumanity #warcrimes

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