Global rights groups support ICC warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders amidst allegations of war crimes

Amnesty International hailed this move as “a crucial step toward justice.”


Human rights defenders worldwide have welcomed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) recent application for arrest warrants targeting Israeli and Hamas leaders over alleged crimes committed during and after the Oct. 7 conflict in Gaza. Amnesty International hailed this move as “a crucial step toward justice.”

The Gaza conflict has a long and tumultuous history, with numerous allegations of war crimes on both sides. The International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, plays a pivotal role in prosecuting individuals for international crimes, including war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The recent ICC action stems from the events of Oct. 7, when severe hostilities broke out, leading to significant casualties and widespread destruction.

On Monday, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan formally applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The charges include “crimes of causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, [and] deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.” Additionally, Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Deif face charges of “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape, and sexual assault in detention.”

These charges are based on detailed investigations and the legal framework established under international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC.

Human rights organizations have expressed strong support for the ICC’s move. Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, emphasized, “No one is above international law: no leaders of armed groups, no government officials—elected or not, no military officials. Regardless of the cause they are pursuing, no one is above the law.” This sentiment was echoed by Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, who stated that Khan’s application “reaffirms the crucial role of the International Criminal Court.”

Jarrah added, “Victims of serious abuses in Israel and Palestine have faced a wall of impunity for decades. This principled first step by the prosecutor opens the door to those responsible for the atrocities committed in recent months to answer for their actions at a fair trial.”

The response from Israeli and Hamas leaders has been swift and vehement. Netanyahu labeled the ICC’s request as “absurd” and antisemitic, while a Hamas spokesperson accused the tribunal of equating “the victim with the executioner.”

The U.S. government, a key ally of Israel, has also condemned the ICC’s actions. President Joe Biden called the move “outrageous” and reaffirmed support for Israel. The U.S. has a history of opposing ICC actions against its allies, backed by laws such as the Hague Invasion Act, which authorizes military intervention to free American or allied citizens held by the ICC.

The ICC’s decision has far-reaching implications for international law and justice. By pursuing arrest warrants against both Israeli and Hamas leaders, the ICC underscores the universality of international criminal law. This move mirrors the court’s previous actions, such as the arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over war crimes in Ukraine.

The potential outcomes of the ICC judges’ decision on these warrants are significant. Approval could lead to increased tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and broader geopolitical ramifications. Conversely, rejection could undermine the ICC’s credibility and its efforts to hold powerful leaders accountable.

This ICC action is part of a broader international effort to address alleged war crimes and human rights violations in the Gaza conflict. The United Nations’ International Court of Justice is currently examining a case brought by South Africa, supported by over 30 countries, accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza. The U.N. Human Rights Council’s draft report has also found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Israel is committing genocide.

“What is ‘outrageous’ is Israel’s U.S.-enabled, decades long impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians,” stated the Center for Constitutional Rights, welcoming Khan’s application.


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