ICC Delays Decision on Arrest Warrants for Israeli Officials

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have been accused of committing war crimes in Gaza

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have delayed a decision on issuing arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who are accused of war crimes in Gaza.

The delay followed the ICC’s permission for the UK to present legal arguments challenging the court’s jurisdiction over the case.

According to court documents released on Thursday, the UK submitted a request to the ICC on June 10, arguing that “the court cannot exercise jurisdiction over Israeli nationals when Palestine cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction over Israeli nationals (under) the Oslo Accords.” 

The ICC has been investigating potential crimes within its jurisdiction committed on Palestinian territory and by Palestinians on Israeli territory since 2021.

The UK’s brief highlighted that the court had previously ruled it would need to make a final decision on Israel’s claim that the Palestinian Authority’s ICC membership violates the Oslo Accords if and when an ICC prosecutor sought arrest warrants for Israeli nationals.

The UK argued that the Palestinian authorities lack jurisdiction over Israeli nationals under the Oslo Accords and therefore cannot transfer that jurisdiction to the ICC for prosecuting Israelis.

“The United Kingdom submits that the Chamber, pursuant to Article 19(1) of the Rome Statute, ‘is required to make an initial determination of jurisdiction in resolving the application for arrest warrants’ of which ‘[t]he Oslo Accords issue necessarily forms part,’” the ICC stated on Thursday.

The judges also announced that the court would accept submissions from other interested parties on the legal issue until July 12.

Media reports suggest that granting the UK’s request could postpone for months the decision on arrest warrants for Israeli officials, which ICC prosecutor Karim Khan requested in May.

Khan previously stated that he was seeking warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant due to suspected crimes of “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict.” 

Israel and the US strongly condemned the announcement. President Joe Biden described the court’s accusations against Israel as “outrageous.” 

Israel initiated military action against Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack in southern Israel in October, resulting in the deaths of over 1,200 people and the capture of over 200 hostages. The Gaza campaign has caused widespread destruction in the Palestinian enclave, leading to the deaths of over 37,000 Palestinians and injuries to over 86,000, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.