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France backs ICC arrest warrant for Israeli, Hamas leaders

By RFI
France © Abir Sultan/Pool via Reuters
TUE, 21 MAY 2024 LISTEN
© Abir Sultan/Pool via Reuters

France's Foreign Ministry has come out in support of the International Criminal Court and its issuing of arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and in Israel.

“France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and its fight against impunity in all situations,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement published Monday night, following the ICC's announcement.

Earlier the ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said he had issued arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders—Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh—for crimes committed in Israel and Gaza on 7 October 2023 and after, including “extermination”, “taking hostages” and “Rape and other acts of sexual violence”.

Khan also issued warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes in Gaza following Hamas' 7 October attack, including “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”, “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population” and “extermination and/or murder”.

The French Foreign Ministry said it “has condemned, as of 7 October, the anti-Semitic massacres perpetuated by Hamas. This terrorist group claimed the barbaric attacks directed at civilians, accompanied by acts of torture and sexual violence that they themselves documented”.

On Israel, “France has been raising the alarm for many months on the imperative for the strict respect of international humanitarian law, notably on the unacceptable nature of civilian losses in the Gaza strip and an insufficient humanitarian access.”

The United States objected to the ICC's putting Israel and Hamas in the same warrant.

US President Joe Biden called the move “outrageous”, saying there was “no equivalence” between Israel and Hamas.

Italy's foreign minister agreed that it was was "unacceptable" to equate the Israeli democratic government with Hamas.

Netanyahu said Khan has created a "twisted and false moral equivalence" between Israel and Hamas, calling the warrants "a moral outrage of historic proportions".

In a video released by his office Tuesday, Netanyahu called Khan ”one of the "great anti-Semites in modern times," like the judges in Nazi Germany who denied Jews basic rights and enabled the Holocaust, and said the decision to issue the warrants was "callously pouring gasoline on the fires of anti-Semitism that are raging around the world”.

A Hamas representative denounced the arrest warrants against its leaders, saying it was "equating the victim with the executioner", and demanded the withdrawal of the request.

In his warrant, Khan does not make any direct comparisons between Israel and Hamas, except to say they have both committed crimes against humanity.

A panel of three judges will determine whether or not to issue the arrest warrants after considering the prosecutor's evidence.

If the warrants are issued, the court—which includes nearly all countries of the European Union—could be put in a diplomatically difficult position.

Israel is not a member, so Netanyahu and Gallant would not face any immediate risk of prosecution.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he would work with world leaders to ensure that the warrants are not enforced.

But Khan's announcement deepens Israel's isolation as it continues its offensive in Gaza, and the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

(with newswires)

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