Relevance of ICC arrest warrants questioned

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Published May 22, 2024


International relations experts have said the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) application for arrest warrants for war crimes for Hamas leaders and Israel’s prime minister will not bring the conflict in the Middle East to an end.

More than 35 000 Palestinians have been killed in deadly bombing attacks after Israel launched strikes following Hamas attacks on southern Israeli towns on October 7 that killed 1 400 people, most of them civilians.

ICC prosecutor Karim AA Khan on Monday said they have applied for warrants of arrest for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant.

The application includes warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh.

Professor Emeritus of International Law at Unisa, André Thomashausen, said the application for warrants of arrest for the Hamas leaders is totally irrelevant.

“They live in tunnels anyway; they are not going to travel anywhere. The political leaders that live in Qatar are not threatened as Qatar is not a member of the ICC and they are not going to enforce anything.”

Hamas leaders, Ismail Haniyeh and Yahiya Sinwar.

Thomashausen said the Israeli prime minister and defence minister are in the middle of a war.

“They are not going to travel anywhere, so it’s not practically relevant and the only impact warrants of arrest can have is political and in reputational damage.

“This judicial activism is not saving lives. I believe the UN Security Council should put together a peacekeeping force with many countries and station them in Gaza so the daily fighting can stop.”

Thomashausen said the ICC is perceived as biased towards the West as 60% of its budget comes from European countries and “it is the brainchild of the EU, so this decision this does change the perception of the ICC”.

Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant

Another international relations expert, Dr Noluthando Phungula, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s international relations department, said the

ICC applying for warrants does dispel the common claim that they are biased to the West.

“However, it begs the question of whether ICC-issued warrants are executable. The ICC has a bad record and the court still needs to rely on ICC signatories to comply, which often never happens.”

Phungula said superpowers allied to Israel, such as the US, are not ICC signatories. “In the case of those that are signatories, they will not jeopardise their relations with the US over Palestine.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the applications for the arrest warrants.

“South Africa is committed to the international rule of law, universal respect for human rights and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation and not war, and the self-determination of all peoples, including the Palestinians.”

Ramaphosa said they have consistently held that all participants to the conflict must ensure that fighting and hostilities come to an immediate end.

The Mercury