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ICC backtracks on Israel arrest warrants

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have been accused of committing war crimes in Gaza

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have postponed a decision on whether arrest warrants should be issued against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over alleged war crimes in Gaza.

The delay came after the ICC allowed the UK to submit legal arguments against the jurisdiction over the issue.

According to court documents made public on Thursday, the UK filed a request with the ICC on June 10 to provide written observations on whether “the court can exercise jurisdiction over Israeli nationals, in circumstances where Palestine cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction over Israeli nationals (under) the Oslo Accords.” 

The ICC has had an ongoing investigation into any alleged crimes within its jurisdiction committed on Palestinian territory and by Palestinians on the territory of Israel since 2021.

The UK’s brief pointed out that the court at the time ruled it would need to make a final decision on Israel’s claim that the Palestinian Authority’s request to join the ICC violates the Oslo Accords if and when an ICC prosecutor requests arrest warrants against Israeli nationals.

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The UK’s argument is that the Palestinian authorities cannot have jurisdiction over Israeli nationals under the terms of the Oslo Accords, and so it cannot transfer that jurisdiction over to the ICC to prosecute Israelis.

“The United Kingdom submits that the Chamber, pursuant to Article 19(1) of the Rome Statute, ‘is required to make an initial determination of jurisdiction in resolving the application for arrest warrants’ of which ‘[t]he Oslo Accords issue necessarily forms part,’” the ICC said on Thursday.

The judges added that the court would also accept submissions from other interested parties on the legal issue until July 12.

According to media reports, granting the UK’s request could delay for months the decision on arrest warrants for Israeli officials, which ICC prosecutor Karim Khan requested in May.

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Khan announced at the time that he was seeking warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant due to suspected crimes of “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.” 

The announcement was fiercely criticized by Israel and the US. President Joe Biden called the court’s accusations against Israel “outrageous.” 

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack in the south of the country in October, leaving more than 1,200 people dead and taking over 200 hostages. The Gaza campaign has inflicted widespread destruction on the Palestinian enclave, leaving more than 37,000 Palestinians dead and over 86,000 injured, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

June 28, 2024 at 08:57PM

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