93 countries support ICC investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza

On Friday, 93 states, all parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, reiterated their support for the ICC in examining a request for arrest warrants against senior Israeli government officials accused of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

Citing separate statements by the ICC defending its mandate of independence, the 93 countries – including Canada, Bangladesh, Belgium, Ireland, Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Chile, Germany, France, Mongolia, Mexico, New Zealand and numerous others – affirmed in their joint statement that “the Court and its officials and employees should carry out their professional duties as international civil servants without intimidation.”

Although neither country is mentioned by name in the joint statement, both the United States and Israel have publicly condemned International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan for his May 20 arrest warrant requests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in the Gaza Strip.

Khan also requested arrest warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri and Ismail Haniyeh for their alleged roles in the October 7 attack on southern Israel. Following Khan's announcement in May, US President Joe Biden said: “Whatever this prosecutor may imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel when it comes to threats to its security.”

In April, it was reported that the US government was working behind the scenes to prevent the International Criminal Court from issuing arrest warrants against Israeli officials. Neither Israel nor the US are parties to the Rome Statute, but the United Nations has recognized the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories, where occupying power Israel is alleged to have committed war crimes.

After Khan made his request for arrest warrants, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We have been very clear about the ICC investigation. We do not support it.” On June 4, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with 42 Democrats, passed a bill that would impose sanctions on ICC officials if arrest warrants against Israeli officials are approved or executed.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, was among those who welcomed Friday's public statement.

Rajagapol thanked the signatories for “defending the International Criminal Court and standing up to the tyrants, including the relics of the U.S. Senate, whose idea of ​​communicating with the world is to issue threats.” He may have been referring to Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who called Khan's proposals “outrageous,” welcomed the House's approval of sanctions, and threatened further punishments for the International Criminal Court.

Such punitive measures and high-profile threats against the ICC appear to be exactly the kind of intimidation to which Friday's joint statement of support is a response.

“The ICC, as the world's first and only permanent international criminal court, is an essential part of the international peace and security architecture,” the statement said. “We therefore call on all states to cooperate fully with the Court so that it can fulfil its important mandate of ensuring equal justice for all victims of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression – serious crimes that threaten world peace, security and well-being.”

By jointly supporting the ICC and its mandate, the countries say they want to “help end impunity for such crimes and prevent their recurrence, while defending the progress made together in ensuring lasting respect for international humanitarian law, human rights, the rule of law and the enforcement of international criminal justice.”

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