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Explained: ICC Chief Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrants Against Netanyahu And Other Top Officials, What Happens Next

In an official statement, Khan mentioned the reasons behind seeking the warrants for Israel’s topmost officials where they have been reconsidered responsible for the devastating condition in Gaza by intentionally targeting civilian populations and committing war crimes.

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The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan Photo: Getty Images
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In a major international development, The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced that he has sought warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas counterparts for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Khan, in a statement said he was applying for arrest warrants of PM Netanyahu, Israel Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and  Hamas top leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

In an official statement, Khan mentioned the reasons behind seeking the warrants for Israel’s topmost officials where they have been reconsidered responsible for the devastating condition in Gaza by intentionally targeting civilian populations and committing war crimes. The statement further read, “The effects of the use of starvation as a method of warfare, together with other attacks and collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza are acute, visible and widely known, and have been confirmed by multiple witnesses interviewed by my Office, including local and international medical doctors. They include malnutrition, dehydration, profound suffering and an increasing number of deaths among the Palestinian population, including babies, other children, and women.”

In addition, Khan’s mention of Hamas officials in the same statement comes as a result of his team’s visit to the areas where Hamas took over two hundred Israeli civilians hostage, which is said to have triggered Israel’s onslaught since October 8. Khan accused Hamas of murder, extermination, hostage-taking and acts of sexual violence.

“During my own visit to Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as to the site of Supernova Music Festival in Re’im, I saw the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today,” the statement mentioned.

ICC’s decision to seek warrants come with substantiated evidence which have been collated after interviews with survivors and affected civilians witnesses, videos and photographs from ground zero, and field visits to Israel-occupied West Bank, border crossings between Egypt and Gaza and other places, as conducted by Khan.

What Happens Next

Prosecutor Khan's request is transferred to a pre-trial chamber comprising three magistrates: presiding judge Iulia Motoc of Romania, Mexican judge Maria del Socorro Flores Liera and judge Reine Alapini-Gansou of Benin. There is no deadline for judges to decide whether to issue arrest warrants. Not being a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, Israel does not recognise its authority and ambit, and neither do the US, China and Russia. This would imply that the court should not be able to investigate Israel, but the state of Palestine being one of the 124 members, allows ICC the jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed on the soil of its member states. That makes it possible for the ICC to prosecute Israeli nationals. 

Should the court find sufficient evidence against Israel and Hamas for perpetrating the said war crimes, a summon of appearance or an arrest warrant could be issued, where the member countries would make the arrest and transfer the suspects to the ICC, following which the court decides if the case stands based on enough evidence. Netanyahu, as head of state, would risk arrest if he travelled to any one of the member nations who are obligated to hand him over, as a part of the Rome Statute. 

Reactions Following Khan’s Statement

Reacting to the statement, Netanyahu has said, “I reject with disgust the comparison of the prosecutor in The Hague between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas.” He has further questioned how could the comparison between Hamas, “that murdered, burned, butchered, decapitated, raped and kidnapped our brothers and sisters”, and the Israeli army stand. He further accused the chief prosecutor to be one of the "great anti-semites in modern times.”

According to Al Jazeera, Hamas officials have also denounced the ICC prosecutor’s decision to seek arrest warrants against its leaders, accusing Karim Khan of trying to “equate the victim with the executioner”.

Gaza, on the other hand, has welcomed ICC’s decision to seek arrest warrants “We appreciate the decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for two Zionist war criminals,” a statement from the office begins.

In a fine game of balance, following a spate of critical remarks aimed at Israel’s decision to attack Rafah and target the civilians, Washington has rejected the ICC prosecutor’s application, with President Joe Biden calling the application ‘outrageous. “Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas,” he further added.

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