ICC demands end to threats against court amid Gaza war probe

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International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan . . . investigating alleged war crimes in Gaza by both Israel and Hamas. Image: ICC

Asia Pacific Report

The prosecutor’s office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has appealed for an end to what it calls intimidation of its staff, saying such threats could constitute an offence against the “administration of justice” by the world’s permanent war crimes court.

The Hague-based office of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement yesterday that all attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence its officials must cease immediately.

While the prosecutor’s statement did not mention Israel, it was issued after Israeli and US officials have warned of consequences against the ICC if it issues arrest warrants over Israel’s war on Gaza, reports Al Jazeera.

“The office seeks to engage constructively with all stakeholders whenever such dialogue is consistent with its mandate under the Rome Statute to act independently and impartially,” Khan’s office said.

“That independence and impartiality is undermined, however, when individuals threaten to retaliate against the court or against court personnel should the office, in fulfillment of its mandate, make decisions about investigations or cases falling within its jurisdiction.”

It added that the Rome Statute, which outlines the ICC’s structure and areas of jurisdiction, prohibits threats against the court and its officials.

Arrest warrants speculation
Over the past week, media reports have indicated that the ICC might issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over the country’s conduct in Gaza.

The court may prosecute individuals for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Israeli military has killed nearly 35,000 people in Gaza and destroyed large parts of the territory since the start of the war on October 7.

News of possible ICC charges against Israeli officials led to an intense pushback by the country and its allies in the United States.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu released a video message rebuking the court.

“Israel expects the leaders of the free world to stand firmly against the ICC outrageous assault on Israel’s inherent right of self-defence,” he said.

“We expect them to use all the means at their disposal to stop this dangerous move.”

The court has been investigating possible Israeli abuses in the occupied Palestinian territory since 2021. Khan has said his team is investigating alleged war crimes in the ongoing war in Gaza.

In October, Khan said the court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes committed by Hamas fighters in Israel and by Israeli forces in Gaza.

Student protests spread to NZ
Meanwhile, more than 2200 students have been arrested in the United States as protests against the war on Gaza and calling for divestment from Israel have spread to more than 30 universities in spite of police crackdowns, and have also emerged in Australia, Canada, France, United Kingdom — and now New Zealand in the Pacific.

RNZ News reports that more than 100 students gathered on Auckland University’s city campus to protest against the war.

The rally was originally planned as an encampment, but the university said any overnight stand would not be allowed.

Tents had been set up within the crowd, but protest organisers said the event would be a rally.

Academic staff have appealed over the administration’s decision against the encampment.

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