Middle east

Contradictory European Stances on ICC Warrant Against Netanyahu

Countries like France and Belgium express support for the Court’s independence, while Germany and the UK condemn the warrants

Late on Monday, France expressed its support for the independence of the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as leaders of Hamas. Germany, however, condemned the Court’s decision against Israeli officials, revealing European disagreements over the decision.

A statement from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “France supports the ICC and its independence, as well as the fight against impunity in all cases.” The ministry condemned the “anti-Semitic massacres committed by Hamas” during its attack on Israel on October 7 and the accompanying “acts of torture and sexual violence.” It also warned Israel “of the necessity to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, particularly the unacceptable level of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and the insufficient access to humanitarian aid.”

Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, criticized ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s request for arrest warrants. The German Foreign Ministry stated on Monday: “The request for simultaneous arrest warrants against Hamas leaders on one hand and Israeli officials on the other hand gives the impression of a false equivalence.” The statement added that the ICC would need to answer a series of “tough questions,” including jurisdiction and the integrity of its investigations concerning Israel, which it described as a “state of law,” asserting that “it is the right and duty of the Israeli government to protect and defend its people.” At the same time, Germany reaffirmed its respect for the ICC’s independence and its procedures, like any other international court.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani stated on Tuesday that it was “unacceptable” to equate Israel and Hamas, explaining in an interview with the “Corriere della Sera” newspaper: “It is absolutely unacceptable to equate Hamas and Israel.” He added: “Care must be taken not to legitimize anti-Israeli positions that can fuel the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.”

On Monday, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that the ICC prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant against Netanyahu was unhelpful, emphasizing that “this action does not contribute to stopping the fighting, releasing hostages, or bringing in humanitarian aid.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib stated that Karim Khan’s request for arrest warrants was “an important step in investigating the situation.” She added in a statement posted on the X platform that “the fight against impunity wherever crimes occur is a priority for Belgium.” She stressed “the necessity to prosecute those responsible for crimes in Gaza at the highest levels, regardless of who the perpetrators are.”

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that he was seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes including “starvation,” “willful killing,” and “genocide and/or murder.” He added in his statement that Israel had committed “crimes against humanity” and accused it of conducting a “widespread and systematic attack against Palestinian civilians.” Khan also requested arrest warrants for three senior Hamas leaders: Yahya Sinwar, head of the movement’s political bureau in Gaza, Mohammed Deif, commander of the Qassam Brigades, the movement’s military wing, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of the movement’s political bureau, for charges of “genocide,” “rape,” “sexual violence,” and “taking hostages.” Khan affirmed that “international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to everyone,” adding that “neither an infantry soldier, nor a commander, nor a civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant described the ICC prosecutor’s request on Tuesday as a “dis

graceful” attempt to influence the Gaza war. He wrote on the X platform: “Prosecutor Karim Khan’s attempt to deprive the State of Israel of its right to self-defense and to free its hostages must be rejected in its entirety.”

Netanyahu “disgustedly” rejected the ICC prosecutor’s request on Monday, while Hamas denounced the “equation between the victim and the executioner.” U.S. President Joe Biden, an ally of Israel, called the request for an arrest warrant against Netanyahu “outrageous,” later insisting that Israel’s attack on Gaza “was not genocide.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the prosecutor’s request as “shameful” and warned that it jeopardized ceasefire efforts in Gaza.

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