The ICC: Credibility and independence

Amr Helmy
Tuesday 21 May 2024

The independence of the International Criminal Court must be respected in its investigation of Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories, writes Amr Helmy


US arguments against the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the Gaza war are not based on sound foundations.

This confirms the illegality of the US pressure exerted on Karim Khan, the prosecutor of the ICC, which aims to force him not to issue arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Galant, and Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Herzi Halev in the light of ICC investigation into Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories especially since the outbreak of the war on Gaza.

The actions of a group of US Congressmen in threatening and attempting to blackmail Karim Khan as part of attempts to prevent the ICC from issuing arrest warrants for the Israeli leaders are violations of the Rome Statute and blatant interference in one of the most important institutions working to achieve international justice.

Instead of recognising that the ICC represents an independent forum to support the rule of international law in the “rules-based international order,” the opposition of a number of US Congressmen, which coincides with the opposition of the US administration itself to the ICC’s investigation into Israel’s actions, is based on the weak argument that it does not have jurisdiction.

Such arguments are not based on any foundation, as they were refuted by the governments that established the ICC in Rome more than two decades ago. The US itself previously effectively abandoned these arguments after the ICC used its jurisdiction in March 2023 to accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

It is worth noting that the ICC, based in The Hague, is investigating Israel’s actions in the Occupied Territories and has the authority to charge and prosecute individuals for the most serious crimes under international law. It has previously issued arrest warrants for political leaders such as Putin, former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, and former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Netanyahu has described the possibility of prominent Israeli figures joining the wanted list as “infuriating,” accusing the ICC of trying to cripple Israel’s ability to defend itself. He has ignored Israel’s failure to protect Palestinian civilians during its ongoing bombing campaigns of Gaza, which have been going on for more than seven months and have killed more than 35,000 people since the war began, most of them children and women.

In addition, Israel has obstructed the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Access to food, water, and medical supplies is a fundamental right for civilians under international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which requires the protection of civilians during armed conflicts.

It is noteworthy that Israel itself has committed a number of mistakes in its dealings with the ICC, whether by refusing to allow ICC investigators to enter Gaza or by threatening that if it issues arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials, Israel will retaliate against the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israel’s claim that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over it because it is not a member of the court is countered by the fact that the ICC has had jurisdiction over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza since 2015 after Palestine ratified the Rome Statute, the court’s founding treaty.

Opposition in judicial matters should not under any circumstances go to the extent of threatening officials and their families. International law must be respected, and the threats against the ICC amount to a “crime against justice” under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. Threats of retaliation are also a violation of human rights standards that exceed the acceptable limits of freedom of expression.

The independence of the ICC as an international judicial institution must be respected, and any attempt to hinder its work and that of its prosecutor is a blatant violation of international justice. The jurisdiction of the ICC, which includes examining individual criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide must be respected without the threat of pressure or external interference.


The writer is a member of the Senate.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: