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ICC faces pressure from the United States

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By Abraham Adekunle

Arrest warrants issued for Israeli and Hamas leaders could be derailed.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is facing pressure from the United States and Israel after its chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced that he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Deif. The court is investigating war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the recent conflict in Gaza that resulted in the deaths of over 35,500 Palestinians and the displacement of tens of thousands more.

Rasha Abu Shaban, a 38-year-old Palestinian woman who lost her brother in the conflict, welcomes the ICC’s move as a step towards justice. However, she fears that US and Israeli pressure could derail the process. “I have mixed feelings,” she said. “I really worry that the US and Israel will… stop the issuing of the arrest warrants from happening.” The US has a history of pressuring the international court and has already threatened to bar Khan and his family from entering the country if he applies for warrants against Israeli leaders.

Scholars agree ICC investigation a step towards justice.

Senior Republican lawmakers have also submitted a letter to Khan’s office, warning him of the consequences of pursuing justice for Palestinians. Despite these threats, Khan remains committed to upholding international law and holding those responsible for war crimes accountable. “This court is the legacy of Nuremberg, and this court is a sad indictment of humanity, and this court should be the triumph of law over power and brute force,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Legal scholars agree that the ICC’s investigation is a crucial step towards justice for Palestinians. “The prosecutor is saying that officials in the Israeli government have violated international law, and that Hamas leaders have violated international law, and that those violations are serious,” said Adil Haque, a legal scholar at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “People can discuss if charges on Hamas leaders are better or worse [than the ones brought against Israeli leaders], but that’s not the prosecutor’s concern.”

HRW urges all ICC members to guard its independence.

However, the US and Israel are using a “rhetorical device” to undermine the ICC’s equal application of international law, Haque explained. They are arguing that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and that Israeli leaders should not be held accountable for their actions. But this argument has no legal weight, and the ICC’s investigation is based on evidence of war crimes committed by both sides. Three judges from the ICC’s pre-trial chamber are now deliberating over whether to issue the arrest warrants.

Human Rights Watch has urged all members of the court to guard the court’s independence against “hostile pressure that is likely to increase while the ICC judges consider Khan’s request”. The US is also considering sanctions against court officials, and may try to pressure Palestinian officials into stopping their cooperation with the ICC. “I think (a possible goal of the US) it would be to get the PA (Palestinian Authority) to stop cooperating with the ICC by getting it to stop sending evidence,” said Mark Kersten, a legal scholar at the University of Fraser Valley in Vancouver.

Related Article: Israel vows to stand alone amidst Hamas war

Despite these challenges, the ICC’s investigation is a crucial step towards justice for Palestinians. “We believe that ICC arrest warrants can have a deterrent effect,” said a source from the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. “We hope that this will lead to accountability for those responsible for war crimes, and that it will bring justice to the victims and their families.” Abu Shaban agrees. “The move by the ICC to seek warrants itself means that there are more people seeking to hold Israel accountable for the atrocities that they do. If these efforts continue, they eventually will lead to something,” she said. “I lost somebody in my family, and I lost my life. I lived my whole life under Israel’s occupation.”


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