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Lawyer Amal Clooney addresses a UN meeting in New York, the US, September 20 2023. Picture: TIMOTHY A CLARY/REUTERS
Lawyer Amal Clooney addresses a UN meeting in New York, the US, September 20 2023. Picture: TIMOTHY A CLARY/REUTERS

Amsterdam— A panel of independent experts including human rights lawyer Amal Clooney backed the ICC prosecutor’s decision to request arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders over the Gaza war as a “historic step for victims” of the conflict.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had requested warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders have dismissed allegations of war crimes, and representatives for both sides have criticised Khan’s decision.

Clooney and five other experts, including two former judges at criminal tribunals in The Hague, said they had been convened at Khan’s request in January to assess the material he provided them with and to offer legal advice.

In a report dated May 20, they said they had carried out “an extensive process of review and analysis”, including witness statements and authenticated videos and photographs obtained by ICC investigators.

Details of the application and the evidence have not been made public.

The panel said it was “satisfied that the process was fair, rigorous and independent and that the prosecutor’s applications for arrest warrants are grounded in the law and the facts”.

“Today, the prosecutor has taken a historic step to ensure justice for the victims in Israel and Palestine by issuing applications for five arrest warrants alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity by senior Hamas and Israeli leaders,” the panel wrote in the Financial Times.

A panel of pretrial judges will determine whether the evidence supports the arrest warrants. The court has no means to enforce such warrants, and its investigation into the Gaza war has been opposed by the US and Israel.

Displaced Palestinians flee Jabalia after the Israeli military called on residents to evacuate, in the northern Gaza Strip, May 14 2024. Picture: REUTERS/DAWOUD ABU ALKAS
Displaced Palestinians flee Jabalia after the Israeli military called on residents to evacuate, in the northern Gaza Strip, May 14 2024. Picture: REUTERS/DAWOUD ABU ALKAS

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health ministry, and aid agencies have warned of widespread hunger and shortages.

Israel began its military offensive in Hamas-governed Gaza after a raid led by the Palestinian Islamist militant group in which 1,200 people were killed in Israel and more than 250 taken hostage on October 7 last year, according to Israeli tallies.

Clooney is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and the panel also included Israeli-American Theodor Meron, the former president of the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and who lived through the Holocaust as a boy in Poland.

Also on the panel were former ICC judge Adrian Fulford, international law and human rights expert Danny Friedman, British House of Lords member Helena Kennedy, and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a former deputy legal adviser at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

They were supported by international law professors Marko Milanovic and Sandesh Sivakumaran, who acted as academic advisers.

Reuters

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