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The law we apply is humanity’s law….. A milestone in International Justice

By May 21, 2024 No Comments
International Justice

A milestone in International Justice.

An arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has become the Israeli Prime Minister’s worst nightmare.

Since mid-April 2024, when rumours reached Jerusalem that the court was building a war case against Benjamin Netanyahu, he has been “unnaturally afraid and worried,” allowing the matter to dominate his thoughts.

This issue has been an “overriding concern” for Mr Netanyahu and “more urgent than anything else,” according to his biographer Anshel Pfeffer, in early May.

Now, that nightmare has become a reality. ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan has sought arrest warrants for Mr Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, his defence minister, a milestone in International Justice which are expected to be granted by the court in the coming weeks.

A distinguished panel of legal experts appointed by Mr Khan’s office has already unanimously concluded that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that “war crimes and crimes against humanity” have been committed.

Specifically, they believe there is good evidence that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant are guilty of murder and extermination, using starvation as a method of war, denying humanitarian relief supplies, and deliberately targeting civilians.

If the judges agree, arrest warrants will be issued, and both men will risk detention if they leave Israel and travel to any of the 124 countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute.

Other fugitives wanted for trial at The Hague include Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord, whose forces are responsible for tens of thousands of child deaths, rapes, and abductions.

While the court’s action will be seen by many as a win for justice, it is likely to entrench positions in Israel in the short term. Of particular concern in Israel is the perceived equivalence with the actions of Hamas leaders in Gaza, who also now face ICC arrest warrants.

Israel Katz, Israel’s foreign minister, said the move was “scandalous” and tantamount to attacking the victims of October 7, while Benny Gantz, the politician most likely to succeed Mr Netanyahu, described it as a “deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy.”

Even Yair Lapid, the left-leaning Israeli opposition leader, condemned the announcement as “a terrible political failure.” Israel will “not accept a comparison to Hamas,” he said. “It is not possible to issue arrest warrants against Mr Netanyahu, Gallant, and Deif. There is no such comparison, we cannot accept it and it is unforgivable.”

In the short term, Israel is likely to rally around its leaders. While the country’s key Western allies are opposed to the extension of the war into Rafah, they may also feel that the arrest warrant does not help them negotiate with Mr Netanyahu. Indeed, a British government spokesman has already said that the search for an arrest warrant will not help “deliver a sustainable ceasefire.”

The US, Israel’s key backer – and not a member of the ICC – has yet to issue any public response.

Once the dust settles, however, the judgment may help deter future war crimes in Israel, the occupied territories, and beyond.

As the expert panel who reviewed the prosecutor’s case noted, the ICC move was a “milestone in the history of international criminal law.”

They added: “There is no conflict that should be excluded from the reach of the law; no child’s life valued less than another’s. The law we apply is humanity’s law, not the law of any given side. It must protect all the victims of this conflict; and all civilians in conflicts to come.”

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