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Faith  Nyasuguta 

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan KC, has formally requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, on charges of war crimes. Khan stated there are sufficient grounds to believe both leaders are criminally responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity since at least October 7, 2023.

Also named in the arrest warrants are Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, and the group’s military chief Mohammed Deif. The ICC, located in The Hague, has been investigating Israeli actions in the occupied territories for the past three years, and more recently, actions by Hamas.

This move marks a significant precedent, as it is the first time the ICC has sought the arrest of the head of a close U.S. ally. Netanyahu now joins a list that includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, who faces an ICC arrest warrant over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity before his death in 2011.

Netanyahu has vehemently criticized the ICC’s actions, calling the possibility of including senior Israeli figures on its wanted list “an outrage of historic proportions.” Benny Gantz, an Israeli war cabinet minister and political opponent of Netanyahu, also condemned the prosecutor’s decision. 

Gantz stated on social media platform X that comparing the leaders of a democratic nation defending itself to those of a terrorist organization represents a profound distortion of justice and a moral failure.

The process now requires ICC judges to evaluate the evidence and decide whether to issue arrest warrants, a procedure that can take weeks or even months. Although Israel and the United States are not ICC members, the court claims jurisdiction over Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank since Palestinian leaders agreed to be bound by the court’s founding principles in 2015.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Yahya Sinwar /AP/

This announcement is separate from an ongoing case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide in its conflict with Hamas following the October 7 attacks

This is not the first time the ICC has engaged with Israel; in March 2021, Khan’s office launched an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank since June 2014.

The ICC operates independently of the United Nations and is based in The Hague, Netherlands. It was established by a treaty known as the Rome Statute. While 124 countries are parties to the treaty, significant non-members include Israel, the US, and Russia. If the court issues the requested arrest warrants, any member country would be obligated to arrest and extradite the accused to The Hague.

This obligation significantly restricts international travel for Netanyahu and Gallant, complicating visits to many of Israel’s close allies, including Germany and the United Kingdom, which are ICC members. Under the Rome Statute, all signatory countries are required to fully cooperate with the court’s decisions, making international movements for the accused Israeli officials even more challenging.

Yahya Sinwar /TPS/

The ICC’s pursuit of arrest warrants for high-profile Israeli and Hamas leaders represents a pivotal moment in international justice, highlighting the court’s determination to address allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, irrespective of political affiliations or international alliances.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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