A strengthening of international law

Andreas Schüller, Director of the International Crimes and Accountability program, on the arrest warrants requested by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and Palestine.

21.05.2024

“The International Criminal Court acts strictly in accordance with legal principles based on the Rome Statute, which 124 states have ratified. The recently requested arrest warrants – the first ever concerning Israel and Palestine – against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Gallant and the Hamas leaders Sinwar, Deif and Hanija do indeed represent a significant legal step.

However, these requests against Israeli politicians and military officials, as well as leading Hamas representatives, are less surprising in terms of their substance. There are, after all, ample indications of violations of international law by Israel, as well as unambiguous allegations that Hamas has committed war crimes. However, the fact that the court is not caving to Israeli or massive US pressure and intends to continue its investigation cannot be praised highly enough. This entails a strengthening of international law that goes beyond the particular case in question.

Just roughly one year ago, the court caused an uproar with its arrest warrant against President Putin for his responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine. By requesting arrest warrants against Israeli politicians and military officers, as well as leading representatives of Hamas, prosecutors in The Hague are making it clear that international criminal law is universal and that everyone who violates it must ultimately face accountability.

The appropriate response from the German government would now be to bolster the ICC politically against the mounting hostility, stemming especially from the USA and Israel, and to actively support the court by interviewing potential witnesses in Germany. Unfortunately, the Federal Public Prosecutor General has still not managed to open an international crimes investigation. At this late stage, that would be the legal imperative of the hour at the very least.”

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