Israel’s campaign against the International Criminal Court could be a ‘crime against justice’, say legal experts | Israel

Attempts by Israeli intelligence services to undermine and influence the International Criminal Court (ICC) could amount to “crimes against the administration of justice” and should be investigated by the chief prosecutor, legal experts say.

In response to revelations about Israeli surveillance and espionage operations against the ICC, several leading international law experts said the conduct of Israel’s intelligence services could amount to criminal offenses.

The revelations about Israel’s nine-year campaign against the court were published on Tuesday as part of a joint investigation by the Guardian, Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 Magazine and Hebrew language store Local Call. It describes how the country’s intelligence services were used to monitor, hack, pressure, smear and allegedly threaten senior ICC personnel.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced last week that he is seeking arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity for Hamas and Israeli leaders. The decision to seek arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant marked the first time an ICC prosecutor has taken action against the leaders of a close Western ally.

Before Tuesday’s revelations, Khan had claimed that unspecified attempts to “obstruct, intimidate or improperly influence the officials of this court” had already been made by unnamed parties. Such conduct could constitute a criminal offense under Article 70 of the court’s founding statute, which concerns the administration of justice.

Toby Cadman, a British lawyer specializing in international criminal and humanitarian law, said the Guardian’s findings are “deeply disturbing” and include allegations that “constitute an attempt to pervert the course of justice through the use of threats” against the former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. .

“It is very clear that these are matters within the jurisdiction of the ICC, in particular under Article 70 of the Statute. “Anyone who attempted to obstruct the prosecutor’s independent investigation must face the consequences,” Cadman said.

Longtime observers of the ICC said Israel’s actions warranted further investigation. Matt Cannock, head of Amnesty International’s center for international justice in The Hague, said: “It is abundantly clear that many of the examples cited in the reporting would amount to (Article 70 offences). Such charges should be brought against anyone who has attempted to obstruct, intimidate or corruptly influence ICC officials.”

Another ICC expert, Mark Kersten, assistant professor of criminal law at the University of the Fraser Valley in Canada, said: “It is difficult to imagine what could be a more blatant attempt to unlawfully interfere with a prosecution process. ”

A spokesperson for Netanyahu’s office said the Guardian’s questions and requests for comment were “filled with many false and baseless accusations intended to harm the State of Israel.”

Washington, along with the British and German governments, has opposed Khan’s decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders. Some Republican members of Congress have called for sanctions against the ICC in response, but the White House said on Tuesday that would not happen. Like Israel, the US is not a member of the court.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said he had read the Guardian report and that the US opposes “threats or intimidation” against members of the International Criminal Court.

“I don’t want to get into mortgages about what the United States might or might not do,” he said. “But of course we are against threats or intimidation against any government official.”

The ICC’s 124 member states should take action on the findings and send a clear message to actors trying to sabotage the ICC’s work, several experts said.

Danya Chaikel, representative of the International Federation for Human Rights at the ICC, said: “These allegations should be a wake-up call to the states that are parties to what is at stake. They must unite and support the court they have built.

“To preserve the international justice system, it must be protected from threats, especially blatant threats against those who have the enormous responsibility of working for all of us to prosecute the worst crimes known to man.”

A senior Palestinian official, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely, said: “Tactics that have been used against Palestinians living under occupation have now been used against international officials from some of the world’s most important institutions. This investigation shows that Israel’s belief in its impunity now extends beyond the borders of Palestine.

“The international community now has two options. Either change course and protect international law and institutions, or destroy the rules-based order for the sake of Israel’s defense.”

Adil Haque, a law professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said that since Article 70 offenses have a five-year statute of limitations, prosecutors must act quickly if they want to investigate and that member states should offer their help.

“This is the behavior of a crime family, not the behavior of a state, and member states should say so,” Haque said.

Asked whether the prosecutor is considering Article 70 investigations in light of the Guardian’s revelations, a spokesperson for Khan’s office said they could not comment beyond the warnings Khan made this month that “all attempts to to obstruct, intimidate or improperly influence this court must be immediately ceased.”

The Guardian investigation comes after a tough week for Israel on the international stage.

The unprecedented decision to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant was followed Friday by a ruling by the International Court of Justice, which mediates disputes between countries, halting Israel’s devastating offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The same week, Ireland, Norway and Spain formally recognized a Palestinian state. Israel responded by recalling its ambassadors from Dublin, Madrid and Oslo and withholding tax revenue from the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the October 7 Hamas attack, while another 250 were taken hostage, and about 35,000 people were killed by Israel in the ensuing war in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, which does not know distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths.

An agreement to release hostages and prisoners in November collapsed after a week, and ceasefire negotiations have failed repeatedly since then.

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