ICC prosecutor faces demand for action against Israeli leaders

AP , Wednesday 15 May 2024

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor faced demands for speedy action against Israeli leaders, as the war on Gaza persists for the 222nd day.

File Photo: Exterior view of the International Criminal Court, or ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands. AP


Karim Khan responded by telling the U.N. Security Council that he will not be swayed or intimidated as his team investigates possible war crimes or crimes against humanity in Gaza and the Palestinian territories as well as in Ukraine.

Libya’s U.N. ambassador, Taher El-Sonni, told Khan that if the Libyan cases the ICC is investigating are so complex that they won't be completed until the end of 2025, he should allocate the court’s efforts to the war in Gaza.

El-Sonni stressed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are being perpetrated by Israeli forces.

The world expects the ICC “to be courageous and to issue arrest warrants against officials of the Israeli regime who have repeated again and again that they want to commit genocidal actions against Palestinians,” El-Sonni said.

“What are you waiting for, Mr. Khan?,” he added. “Don’t you see the threats against civilians, the potential threats against civilians in Rafah and the massacre that would happen at any time?”

El-Sonni was referring to the latest Israeli attack on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, where 1.3 million Palestinians had fled seeking safety.

The U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees said Tuesday that nearly 450,000 have fled Rafah in the past week, and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated that there is no safe place anywhere in Gaza.

“This is the actual test of the ICC,” El-Sonni said. “Is the ICC politicized or is it independent and neutral?”

Last week, two Republican congressmen introduced the “Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act” to impose sanctions on ICC officials that go after the United States or its allies including Israel.

They cited reports the ICC is poised to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other high-ranking Israeli officials for their war on Gaza, which has killed over 35,000 Palestinians, the majority of them women and children.

Algeria’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Nacim Gaouaoui, expressed hope the ICC will take “a serious approach” to its Palestinian investigations and “demonstrate that it is not a tool used by some members of the international community to threaten whoever they want, whenever they want.”

More than 40 UN rapporteurs and independent experts stepped in this week to denounce US and Israeli threats against the International Criminal Court.

A statement on 13 May signed by 45 UN special rapporteurs voiced “utter dismay” over statements made by US and Israeli officials threatening to retaliate against the ICC and its officials and members of their families should it issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza.

Khan said he wanted to assure Russia’s ambassador that “we will not be swayed, whether it’s by warrants for my arrest or the arrest of elected officials of the court by the Russian Federation, or whether it’s by other elected officials in any other jurisdiction.”

Khan said the ICC endeavors to be “deaf to the noise” and this should be a time “for the law to be allowed to breathe,” whether dealing with world crises like Ukraine, Gaza and the Palestinians, Libya or the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

“We have a duty to stand up for justice, to stand up for victims,” Khan said. “We will stand up and apply the law with integrity, with independence.”


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