Netanyahu becomes first western leader to face potential ICC charges of crimes against humanity.

Netanyahu becomes first western leader to face potential ICC charges of crimes against humanity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu / Source: Government Press Office of Israel/Avi Ohayon

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is seeking arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials and top leaders of Hamas for crimes committed during the attack on Israel on October 7th and the ensuing war in Gaza. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Yoav Gallant are accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes that include the deliberate targeting of civilians, the use of starvation as a tool of war, the denial of humanitarian aid and extermination. 

“These acts demand accountability,” Karim Khan, Chief Prosecutor of the ICC said in a statement.

Khan is also seeking arrest warrants for three senior Hamas leaders. They include those believed to be the masterminds of the October 7th attack: Yahya Sinwar, chief of Hamas in Gaza and Mohammed Deif, the commander of its military wing. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the group’s political arm based in Qatar is also wanted 
for crimes of extermination, murder, hostage taking, rape, sexual assault and torture.

Established in 2002, the ICC was created to punish those responsible for the world’s most serious crimes. Arrest warrants have been issued in the past for Vladimir Putin, Muammar Gaddafi and Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony. This marks the first time a western leader faces potential war crime charges by the ICC.

Any arrest warrant must be approved by the judiciary – a process that could take months. Israel and the United States, along with dozens of other countries, are not members of the court and do not recognize its authority.

Nevertheless, if an arrest warrant is issued, it could impede travel for the accused to countries that are signatories of the court. 

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