International reactions to ICC announcement mixed

France and South Africa supported the move, while the United States and most other European countries condemned it.

British lawyer Karim Ahmad Khan was elected on Feb. 12, 2021 to replace Fatou Bensouda as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in New York City. Credit: ICC.
British lawyer Karim Ahmad Khan was elected on Feb. 12, 2021 to replace Fatou Bensouda as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in New York City. Credit: ICC.

While France and South Africa have hailed the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor for seeking arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, many other countries, including the United States, have condemned it.

“We support the International Court of Justice, its independence and the fight against impunity in any situation,” said France’s foreign minister, Stéphane Séjourné.

Israel has not heeded warnings regarding “the need for strict compliance with international humanitarian law, and in particular…the unacceptable level of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and inadequate humanitarian access,” he added.

The United States, by contrast, has taken a firm stance against the move, with President Joe Biden calling it “outrageous” and emphasizing that he “will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

Khan is seeking arrest warrants against the Israeli leaders on charges that include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies [and] deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.”

During the interview with CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour in which he made the announcement, Khan also said he was seeking warrants against Hamas leaders.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antoni Tajani decried the announcement as seemingly putting Israel and Hamas’s leaders on equal footing. “It seems extraordinary to me, I would say unacceptable, to equate a legitimately elected government in a democracy with a terrorist organization which is the cause of everything happening in the Middle East,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressed a similar sentiment.

“The simultaneous application for arrest warrants against the Hamas leaders on the one hand and the two Israeli officials on the other has given the false impression of equivalence,” she said.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala noted that it was Hamas that began the current war by brutally invading Israel on Oct. 7.

“We must not forget that it was Hamas that attacked Israel in October and killed, injured and kidnapped thousands of innocent people. It was this completely unprovoked terrorist attack that led to the current war in Gaza and the suffering of civilians in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon,” he said.

South Africa, which has accused Israel of genocide before the ICC, welcomed Khan’s announcement.

Khan’s application will now be reviewed by a panel of judges who will decide whether to pursue the charges.

Top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell tweeted on Monday that he had “taken note” of Khan’s announcement, adding, “The mandate of the ICC, as an independent international institution, is to prosecute the most serious crimes under international law.” All states that have ratified the ICC statutes are bound to enforce its decisions, he wrote.

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