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ICC warns against 'retaliation threats'

By AFP

May 3, 2024 09:52 PM


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International Criminal Court prosecutors warned on Friday against "individuals who threaten to retaliate" against the tribunal or its staff, saying such actions might constitute an "offence against its administration of justice".

The ICC did not say if the comment related to its investigation into possible war crimes by Israel or Palestinian groups in Gaza and the West Bank.

US media reports have suggested that the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) could issue warrants against both Israeli politicians and Hamas leaders.

Israeli officials have said in recent days that any attempt by the court to take any action against Israel would be "outrageous".

On Friday, the Hague-based office of ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said on X, former Twitter, that it sought to "engage constructively with all stakeholders whenever dialogue is consistent with its mandate".

"That independence and impartiality are undermined, however, when individuals threaten to retaliate against the court or against court personnel", it added.

"Such threats, even not acted upon, may constitute an offence" against the ICC's "administration of justice", it warned, calling for an end to such activity.

Khan's office declined to say where the threats had come from and which investigation was concerned, when questioned by AFP.

But one legal expert said it was likely related to the "ongoing investigation in Palestine" given recent Israeli government statements about "threats to the Palestinian Authority in response to the potential issuance of arrest warrants".

Israel's reported retaliatory steps were aimed at the Palestinian authorities, "not at the ICC or the OTP", said Gabriele Chlevickaite, a researcher at the Hague-based Asser Institute for international law.

However, "some statements by Israeli officials could be interpreted as threatening the OTP officials indirectly and, or, interfering with the investigation," she told AFP.

This would not only be an offence under the court's founding Rome Statute "but a blatant disregard of the rule of law," Chlevickaite added.

The ICC opened a probe in 2021 into Israel, as well as Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups, over possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Khan has said this investigation now "extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence since the (Hamas) attacks that took place on October 7, 2023".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on X on Wednesday that the ICC was "contemplating issuing arrest warrants against senior Israeli government and military officials as war criminals".

"This would be an outrage of historic proportions," he said, alleging that the ICC was "trying to put Israel in the dock".

The United States said on Monday it also opposed the ICC's probe into Israel's conduct in Gaza.

The ICC is the world's only independent court set up to probe the gravest offences by individual suspects, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It has previously issued warrants for national leaders -- most recently Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Gaza started after Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. Israel's relentless retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,568 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the besieged Hamas-run enclave.

 


AFP


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