Amal Clooney Approved War Crime Arrest Warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu

Kena Betancur/Getty Images and Reuters/Nic Bothma
Kena Betancur/Getty Images and Reuters/Nic Bothma

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Monday said that he has requested a warrant for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders.

Karim Khan, the prosecutor, said he is filing the application for the warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Gaza. The warrants for the Hamas leaders—Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh—relate to the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel and the subsequent treatment of the hostages kidnapped during the assault.

The warrant applications will now be considered by a panel of ICC judges. The requests alone are significant, however, with the court targeting the leader of one of the U.S.’ close allies for the first time, according to CNN.

A group of lawyers based in the U.K.—including Amal Clooneysaid they had been approached by Khan to advise on the warrant applications and had given their unanimous approval.

“The Panel... unanimously agrees that the evidence presented by the prosecutor provides reasonable grounds to believe that Netanyahu and Israel’s minister of defence Yoav Gallant have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Clooney and the other legal advisors wrote in an op-ed published by the Financial Times.

In a statement, Khan said evidence collected and examined by his office gave him “reasonable grounds to believe” that Netanyahu and Gallant “bear criminal responsibility” for crimes including the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, and “extermination and/or murder.”

The Hamas leaders are also suspected of extermination and murder, with Khan further seeking arrest warrants against the trio for hostage-taking, torture, and “rape and other acts of sexual violence as crimes against humanity.”

Sinwar is the leader of Hamas in Gaza. Al-Masri, commonly known as Mohammed Deif, is the head of the group’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, while Haniyeh leads the Hamas Political Bureau. Khan said there are reasonable grounds to believe that all three are “criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas… on 7 October 2023 and the taking of at least 245 hostages.”

Khan also said that his office is of the view that they “have through their own actions, including personal visits to hostages shortly after their kidnapping, acknowledged their responsibility for those crimes.” He said he’d heard from survivors of the Oct. 7 attacks about “how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness.” “These acts demand accountability,” he said.

The prosecutor also said there are grounds to believe hostages taken during the attack have been “kept in inhumane conditions, and that some have been subject to sexual violence, including rape, while being held in captivity.” That suspicion, he said, is based on medical records, documentary evidence, and interviews with victims and survivors.

The allegations against Netanyahu and Gallant, Khan claims, relate to crimes “committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy.” “These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day,” he said.

Khan claimed evidence shows that Israel has “intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival” through the siege of the enclave which has prevented essential supplies from entering.

“This took place alongside other attacks on civilians, including those queuing for food; obstruction of aid delivery by humanitarian agencies; and attacks on and killing of aid workers, which forced many agencies to cease or limit their operations in Gaza,” Khan said.

The prosecutor acknowledged that Israel, like all states, has the right to take action to defend its population. “That right, however, does not absolve Israel or any State of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law,” Khan said, alleging that Israel has sought to achieve its military goals through “criminal” means including intentionally causing death, starvation, and suffering.

“Today we once again underline that international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader—no one—can act with impunity. Nothing can justify wilfully depriving human beings, including so many women and children, the basic necessities required for life. Nothing can justify the taking of hostages or the targeting of civilians.”

Neither Israel nor the U.S. are members of the ICC. If the warrants are granted, however, those targeted could face arrest if they travel to any of the 124 nations which are—including most of Europe.

Netanyahu has not immediately responded to the application. Last month, when reports emerged that the ICC could seek warrants against Israel’s top officials over war crimes, Netanyahu said such warrants “would be an outrage of historic proportions.”

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