FIDH welcomes the ICC Prosecutor’s historic requests for arrest warrants in the Palestine situation

Press release
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No one is above the law, especially when it concerns the most heinous crimes known to humankind.

Paris, 20 May 2024. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) applauds the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant, who are accused of starvation of civilians, willfully causing great suffering, willful killing, extermination, and persecution, among other crimes, and the arrest warrants against senior Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar (Head), Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (Deif) (Commander-in-Chief), and Ismail Haniyeh (Head of Political Bureau), who are accused of extermination, murder, taking hostages, rape, torture, and other inhumane acts. It is now for ICC judges to determine whether to issue these five arrest warrants in what may amount to be some of the most monumental international criminal cases of this century.

In requesting these arrest warrants, the Prosecutor of the world’s only permanent international criminal court reaffirms that no one is above the law, particularly the law of war which is designed to shield civilians from heinous atrocities.

The ICC is an independent court where political pressures, threats, and double standards have no place and only serve the powerful at the expense of the victims", says Danya Chaikel, FIDH’s Representative to the ICC. "In the case of the warrants against Israeli officials, this is the first instance of any international tribunal targeting a leader supported by the world’s most powerful Western nations, marking a significant shift in addressing long-standing double standards in international justice”.

FIDH recognises the importance of this historic development not only for the countless victims who have been for decades demanding justice and respect for their basic right to survive, but also for the rule of law globally. FIDH commends the ICC’s efforts to engage with all stakeholders, including national authorities and civil society, to further these crucial investigations and prosecutions.

FIDH urgently calls on ICC member states to fully cooperate with the Court to ensure perpetrators are held accountable regardless of their position or affiliation", says Alexis Deswaef, FIDH Vice-President. "We ask member states to publicly support the applications for arrest warrants as they did for the arrest warrant for Vladmir Putin in the Ukraine situation, and to execute the arrests if they are issued”.

FIDH and its Palestinian and Israeli member organisations have been working on human rights infringements in Palestine and Israel for decades. The ICC must take into account this long documented history of human rights violations within the context of its investigation and prosecution. Many crimes fall within the Court’s jurisdiction: crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2014, when the Palestine situation was referred to the Prosecutor, and in East Jerusalem, as well as Israel’s 2014 and 2021 assaults on Gaza, and the killings in the Great March of Return. Furthermore FIDH calls on the ICC to investigate recent genocide allegations against Israeli officials, brought forward by FIDH (see resolution) and countless other actors and in light of the proceedings before the International Court of Justice.

The ICC Prosecutor’s request was informed by an external Panel of Experts in International Law, including former ICC Judge Sir Adrian Fulford, Judge Theodor Meron, Baroness Helena Kennedy, and Amal Clooney, which he convened to advise on whether his applications for arrest warrants met the Rome Statute (treaty that established the ICC) requirements. Today, the Panel unanimously endorsed in their report the assessment that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the Court has jurisdiction over the crimes set out in the applications for arrest warrants, that these crimes were committed and that the suspects are responsible for them.” It is now up to ICC judges to determine if there are indeed “reasonable grounds to believe” that the five suspects in the Prosecutor’s request committed crimes within the jurisdiction of the court, after carefully assessing the credibility and relevance of the evidence submitted.

The ICC Prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants against leaders from both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict represents a commitment to an unbiased and comprehensive enforcement of international criminal law. This unprecedented approach adds credibility to the OTP at this early stage of the proceedings, by demonstrating its dedication to holding all parties accountable for alleged violations, irrespective of their positions in the conflict.

On 1 January 2015, the Government of The State of Palestine lodged a declaration under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed "in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014". On 22 May 2018, The State of Palestine referred the Palestine situation to the Prosecutor since 13 June 2014, with no end date. The OTP opened its investigation in the Palestine situation in 2019, but the decision by ICC Judges determining that the territorial scope of the investigation includes Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was only issued in 2021. The OTP received further referrals of the situation from South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, and Djibouti on 17 November 2023. At that time, the Prosecutor then confirmed that he was conducting an ongoing investigation into the Palestine situation, which extends to the hostilities and violence since the attacks that took place on 7 October 2023. The Republic of Chile and the United Mexican State additionally submitted a referral on 18 January 2024.

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