ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan issued warrants for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister, as well as for three Hamas leaders

By Peoples Dispatch

On May 20, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, issued arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Netanyahu and Gallant stand accused of “war crimes and crimes against humanity,” including but not limited to “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare,” “willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health,” and “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population.”

ICC, International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan
Photo: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Khan also issued warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Al Dief, and Ismail Haniya. They also stand accused of crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual violence, extermination, murder, and taking hostages.

The move, though largely symbolic, has created an international stir. International forces supporting Israel have reacted with outrage, including US President Biden, who said in a statement that “The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous.”

“Let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence—none—between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security,” Biden said.

The Palestinian resistance movements and largely movements for Palestinian liberation issued different reactions. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, was largely positive in his reaction, stating, “We consider this to be the first step towards condemning the crimes of genocide committed by the rulers and army of Israel against the Palestinian people in Gaza and holding them accountable for committing these crimes according to international law and international humanitarian law.”

Hamas denounced the actions against its own leaders. “The Public Prosecutor should have arrest and detention orders against all officials from the occupation leaders who gave orders, and soldiers who participated in committing crimes,” the resistance organization stated. “The Hamas movement strongly denounces the attempts of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders, without a legal basis, in violation of the international conventions and resolutions that gave the Palestinian people and all the peoples of the world under occupation the right to resist the occupation in all forms, including armed resistance, especially as stipulated in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”

Others have similarly criticized the move based on the equivalency Khan draws between Hamas and Israel, especially since many have pointed out inconsistencies in accusations made against Hamas forces of rape. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have many credible accusations of rape made against them. Khan has a history of siding with imperialist forces during his time as ICC prosecutor, including excluding US troops from a probe into war crimes in Afghanistan.