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British Human Rights Lawyer Amal Clooney Advised ICC Prosecutor on Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu, Hamas Leaders

By Shiryn Ghermezian

May 22, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

British human rights attorney Amal Clooney, who is also the wife of actor George Clooney, said on Monday that she was among a group of legal experts that advised the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense chief, and three Hamas terrorist leaders for alleged war crimes.

Amal said in a statement published on the website for the Clooney Foundation for Justice that she supports the ICC in the “historic step” it has taken “to bring justice to victims of atrocities in Israel and Palestine.” If the arrest warrants are issued by the court’s judges, Netanyahu would be the first senior leader of a close US ally to be charged by the ICC.

“I served on this panel because I believe in the rule of law and the need to protect civilian lives,” Amal added. “The law that protects civilians in war was developed more than 100 years ago and it applies in every country in the world regardless of the reasons for a conflict. As a human rights lawyer, I will never accept that one child’s life has less value than another’s. I do not accept that any conflict should be beyond the reach of the law, nor that any perpetrator should be above the law.”

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan asked Amal more than four months ago to join a panel of international legal experts given the task of reviewing evidence and legal analysis of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza.

Amal is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and co-founded the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which gives free legal support to victims of human rights abuses. As a lawyer, she specializes in international law and human rights. She previously represented Yazidi victims of genocide “in the only three genocide cases against ISIS members in the world” and also represented victims of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

The eight-person legal panel organized by the ICC published a detailed legal report of its findings on Monday. They said they found “reasonable grounds to believe” that all five men named in the arrest warrants — Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh — have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in Israel or the Gaza Strip.

Two panel members who advised the ICC were appointed as expert “special advisers” by Khan, and two other panel members were former judges at criminal tribunals in The Hague, Amal explained. The panel unanimously concluded that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that Netanyahu and Gallant “have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including starvation as a method of warfare, murder, persecution and extermination,” and that Sinwar, Deif, and Haniyeh have “committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including hostage-taking, murder, and crimes of sexual violence.” A panel of ICC judges will now consider Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

The legal experts who advised the ICC prosecutor also published an op-ed on Monday further supporting their findings. Amal said she hopes witnesses will cooperate with the ICC amid its investigation and “that justice will prevail in a region that has already suffered too much.”

Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden both condemned the arrest warrants. The Israeli prime minster called them a “travesty of justice” and an “outrageous decision” that “creates a twisted and false moral equivalence between the leaders of Israel and the henchmen of Hamas.”

Biden addressed the call for arrest warrants during his speech on Monday at the White House in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month.

“Let me be clear: We reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders,” Biden said. “There is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas, and it’s clear that Israel wants to do all it can to ensure civilian protection.”

He added, “Contrary to allegations against Israel made by the International Court, what’s happening is not genocide. We reject that. We will always stand with Israel and threats against its security.”

While Israel and the US are not members of the ICC, the court claims it has jurisdiction over Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank since Palestinian leaders agreed in 2015 to be bound by the court’s founding principles, according to CNN.


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