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ICC seeks arrest warrants against Israel PM Netanyahu, Hamas head Sinwar

Warrants against Israeli politicians mark the first time the ICC is targeting the top leader of a close US ally

Benjamin Netanyahu,Benjamin,Netanyahu,Israel PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony for the 'Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism' at Yad LeBanim in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, May 12, 2024.(Photo: PTI)

Bhaswar Kumar Delhi

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes over the war in Gaza and the October 7 attacks on Israel that triggered the conflict, the court's chief prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN on Monday. 

Khan said that the ICC was also seeking warrants for Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and two other senior Hamas leaders — Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' political leader. According to the report, a panel of ICC judges will be considering the chief prosecutor's application for the arrest warrants. 

The CNN report said that the warrants against Israeli politicians mark the first time the ICC is targeting the top leader of a close ally of the United States (US). Previously, the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow's war on Ukraine. 

The charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri include "extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention", said Khan. 

Khan added that the charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include "causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict". 

Established in 2002, the ICC is meant to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression if its member states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. 

While both Israel and the US are not members of the ICC, the court claims jurisdiction over Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank after Palestinian leaders agreed to be bound by its founding principles in 2015. 

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, the tribunal can prosecute crimes committed by nationals belonging to its member states or even on the territory of those states by other actors. 

Even if the arrest warrants are issued, the capture and arraignment of Israeli officials and Hamas leaders would pose a challenge. 

While an arrest warrant would oblige ICC member states to arrest the concerned Israeli officials or Hamas leaders if they were to travel to their country, as a judicial institution, the ICC itself does not possess a police force or any other way to enforce such arrests. 

As a result, the ICC relies on cooperation with countries worldwide for making arrests, transferring the arrested individuals to the ICC detention centre in The Hague, freezing their assets, and enforcing sentences. 

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First Published: May 20 2024 | 5:48 PM IST

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