Home South AmericaBolivia What crimes does the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accuse Netanyahu and Hamas leaders of?

What crimes does the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accuse Netanyahu and Hamas leaders of?

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What crimes does the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accuse Netanyahu and Hamas leaders of?

May 20, 2024, 18:20 PM

May 20, 2024, 18:20 PM

Netanyahu and his Defense Minister.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, announced this Monday that he has requested arrest warrants against the highest leaders involved in the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

Khan assures that he has “reasonable grounds to believe” that there have been war crimes and crimes against humanity attributable to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahuand his Minister of Defense, Yoav Gallant.

He also considers three leaders of the Palestinian militant organization Hamas possibly responsible: Yahya Sinwarwho is the head of the group in Gaza, as well as the leaders Ismail Haniya and Mohammed al Masri.

Prosecutor Khan has requested that the five men be detained. A group of ICC investigative judges will now determine whether the evidence supports the issuance of arrest warrants.

Responding to the announcement, Netanyahu said in a statement that he rejected “with disgust the Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas.”

For his part, a senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that the request for the arrest of its leaders “equates the victim with the executioner.”

Israel is not a signatory to the ICC, so it has no jurisdiction over its territory. But if the arrest warrant is obtained, Netanyahu and Gallant could be limited if they want to leave Israel.

But what are both parties accused of?

Prosecutor Karim Khan

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Prosecutor Khan requested the arrest warrants from a panel of ICC judges.

The accusations against Israel

These are the crimes that the ICC prosecutor points out:

  • Starvation of civilians as a method of war as a war crime.
  • Deliberately causing great suffering or serious harm to body or health, or cruel treatment as a war crime.
  • Intentional homicide or murder as a war crime.
  • Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as a war crime.
  • Extermination and/or murder, even in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity.
  • Persecution as a crime against humanity.
  • Other inhuman acts such as crimes against humanity.

The accusation against Netanyahu and Gallant It derives from the major offensive that Israel has launched on the Gaza Strip to dismantle Hamas, an operation that occurred in response to the Palestinian group’s attack on October 7 that left more than 1,200 dead and almost 250 hostages.

Khan considers Israel’s illegal actions to include deprivation of food and basic supplies used as a weapon of war, as well as murder, extermination and intentional attacks against civilians.

“My office maintains that the evidence we have collected, including interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authenticated video, photographic and audio material, satellite images and statements from the alleged perpetrator group, demonstrate that “Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population throughout Gaza of objects essential for human survival,” the prosecutor’s indictment states.

“This occurred by imposing a total siege on Gaza that involved the complete closure of the three border crossings, Rafah, Kerem Shalom and Erez, starting on October 8, 2023 for prolonged periods and then arbitrarily restricting the transfer of essential supplies – including food and medicine – through the border crossings after they were reopened,” it continues.

“The siege also included the cutting of cross-border water pipelines from Israel to Gaza – the main source of drinking water for Gazans – for an extended period starting on October 9, 2023, and cutting off and hindering the supply of electricity from at least October 8, 2023 until today”

Although he points out that Israel has the right to take measures to defend its population, “This right does not exempt Israel or any State from its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law.”

“Whatever military objectives they may have, the means Israel chose to achieve them in Gaza – namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering and serious injury to the physical integrity or health of the civilian population– they are criminals.”

The accusations against Hamas

Sinwar, al Masri and Haniya

Getty Images/AFP
Sinwar, al Masri and Haniya were named by the ICC prosecutor.

These are the crimes that the ICC prosecutor points out:

  • Extermination as a crime against humanity.
  • Murder as a crime against humanity and as a war crime.
  • Hostage taking as a war crime.
  • Rape and other acts of sexual violence as crimes against humanity and also as war crimes.
  • Torture as a crime against humanity and also as a war crime in the context of captivity.
  • Other inhuman acts as crimes against humanity in the context of captivity.
  • Cruel treatment as a war crime. in the context of captivity.
  • Outrages on personal dignity as a war crime in the context of captivity.

The October 7 surprise attack by Hamas against civilians on October 7 last year, which sparked the current conflict, was also considered by the ICC prosecutor to be an act punishable under international law.

Khan stated that Sinwar, haniya and al Masri -accused Hamas leaders- “They planned and instigated the commission of crimes” that day “and have acknowledged through their own actions, including personal visits to the hostages shortly after their kidnapping, their responsibility for those crimes.”

“During my own visit to Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as the site of the 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,” said the prosecutor.

“Talking to survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a father and son, were twisted to inflicting unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. “These acts demand responsibilities.”

In addition to causing the death of more than 1,200 people, Hamas took 254 people hostage, between Israelis and foreigners. The whereabouts of more than 120 of them are still unknown.

“My office also asserts that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the hostages held in Israel have been kept in inhumane conditions, and that some have been subjected to sexual violence, including rape, during their captivity“said the prosecutor.

“We have reached that conclusion based on medical records, contemporaneous documentary and video evidence, and interviews with victims and survivors,” he added.

“A devastating series of accusations”

Analysis by Jeremy Bowen, BBC International Editor

Careful legal language adds to a devastating series of accusations against Hamas’s three most prominent leaders and Israel’s prime minister and its defense minister.

A panel of ICC judges will now consider whether to issue the arrest warrants. States signatories to the ICC statute would then be obliged to arrest the accused if they had the opportunity.

The 124 signatories do not include Russia, China and the United States. Israel has not signed either. But the ICC has ruled that it has legal authority to prosecute criminal acts in the war because the Palestinians are signatories.

The ICC prosecutor alleges that Israel’s prime minister and defense minister committed crimes including starvation of civilians as a weapon of war, murder, extermination and intentional attacks on civilians.

An Israeli at a Hamas attack site

Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel on October 7, 2023.

If the arrest warrants are issued, it would mean that Israel’s head of government, Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister, would be unable to visit his Western allies without risking arrest.

The only exception, very important for him, would be the United States. The same would apply to Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister.

The words Gallant used when announcing that Israel would besiege Gaza have been frequently cited by critics of Israel’s conduct.

Two days after the Hamas attacks on October 7, Gallant said: “I have ordered a complete siege in the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed… we are fighting against human animals and We are acting accordingly.”

Gazans among rubble

More than 30,000 civilians have been killed in Gaza since the Israeli offensive began.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan notes in his statement that “Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable for human survival.”

The war crimes Khan says Hamas committed include extermination, murder, hostage-taking, rape and torture.

Two of the accused Hamas leaders, Yahya Sinwar (head of Hamas in Gaza), and Mohammed Deif (referred to by the ICC as Mohammed al Masri), commander of Hamas’ military wing, are believed to be hiding somewhere inside from Gaza.

Israel has been trying to take them down for the past seven months, so an arrest warrant does not increase the pressure on them much. But the other Hamas leader facing a court order is Ismail Haniya, head of Hamas’s political bureau.

He travels extensively in the region and meets with senior Arab and Iranian leaders. Haniya is based in Qatar, which like Israel, did not sign the Rome Statute that created the ICC.

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