Israeli troops are advancing on Gaza. The war against Hamas, which began more than four months ago, is straining public finances by pushing the budget into a deep deficit. Photographer: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg

Israeli army is marching towards Gaza. The war against Hamas, which began more than four months ago, is straining public finances by pushing the budget into a deep deficit. Photographer: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg

The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor has charged the heads of Israel and Hamas with war crimes, placing them among the ranks of world leaders notorious for heinous acts against humanity.

Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan on Monday announced arrest warrants against two Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and three Hamas leaders.

The prosecutor focused on actions taken by Hamas on October 7 when militants attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages, and Israel’s military response in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. But, in which approximately 35,000 Palestinians were killed.

Netanyahu on Monday denounced the verdict, calling it a complete distortion of reality.

“I reject with disgust the Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

In a statement, Hamas accused the prosecutor of trying to equate the victim with the executioner. It said he has the right to oppose the Israeli occupation, including through armed resistance.

The ICC is the permanent court of last resort, established in 2002 to prosecute individuals accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression. Several countries, including Israel, the United States, China, and Russia, do not accept the Court’s jurisdiction.

Here’s a closer look at the charges against Israeli and Hamas leaders, and some of the leaders around the world who have also been issued arrest warrants from the ICC:

hamas leader
Hamas officials Ismail Haniyeh, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif are accused of planning and inciting eight war crimes and crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, hostage-taking, rape and torture.

The decision issued today by the ICC states that the crimes against humanity charged were part of a widespread and systematic attack by Hamas against the civilian population of Israel.

There are reasonable grounds to believe that hostages taken from Israel are being held in inhumane conditions, and some have been subjected to sexual violence, including rape, during their captivity.

Hamas rejected the allegations.

Sinwar and Deif are believed to be hiding in Gaza. Haniyeh, the supreme leader of Hamas, is based in Qatar.

israeli soldier
Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant are accused of seven war crimes and crimes against humanity, including extermination and murder. They have also been accused of starving civilians as a method of war, of deliberately taking action against the civilian population, of torture and of deliberately causing great suffering.

The United Nations says famine is looming in northern Gaza as the region faces an almost complete halt to aid supplies. Israel has been accused of heavily restricting the flow of aid to the region, a charge it denies.

Netanyahu and Gallant face no immediate risk of prosecution. Israel is not a member of the court, but the threat of arrest can make it difficult for Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

other arrest warrants

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for other leaders in the nearly two decades since the court’s establishment.

In March last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin was accused of kidnapping children from Ukraine to Russia. He was charged along with Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights.

Putin is highly unlikely to face trial at the ICC because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction or extradite its citizens. Russia responded by issuing its own arrest warrants for Khan, the court’s prosecutor, and other ICC judges.

Joseph Kony, one of Africa’s most notorious warlords, was issued an arrest warrant from the ICC in 2005. As the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda, he faces 12 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual slavery and rape. 21 counts of war crimes.

Despite an internationally supported manhunt and a $5 million reward, Kony has eluded capture and remains at large. The ICC is expected to begin its first hearing in absentia in October.

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges related to the conflict in Darfur. Arrest warrants were issued for al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010, charging him with five counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of genocide.

After spending some time in Khartoum prison from 2019 to 2023, he remains at large. Earlier this year, the ICC said progress had been made in the case against al-Bashir.

Longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was charged with two counts of crimes against humanity for his brutal crackdown during the 2011 Arab Spring. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi in June 2011, but closed the case in November 2011 after his death.

The dictator’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was charged along with two others in 2011 and remains at large.

first published: 21 May 2024 | 7:57 am First

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