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Israel is imposing collective punishment on Gaza: ICC prosecutor

According to International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, Israel is enforcing collective punishment on Gaza, underscoring that no one is immune from accountability for perpetrating war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published May 27,2024
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan (AFP File Photo)

Israel is imposing collective punishment on Gaza, said International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, emphasizing that no one has immunity to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Sunday Times, Khan discussed the reactions following his move to seek arrest warrants for members of the Palestinian group Hamas and senior Israeli officials.

"I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its supreme court is akin to Hamas. Of course not. I couldn't be clearer. Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a license to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us," he said.

Khan said that when "a senior official" recently asked him what can Israel do, given that it doesn't know "where the hostages were, in tunnels or houses, or how they were being kept," he cited the UK's stance against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during Ireland's struggle for independence.

"There were attempts to kill (Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher. (Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) Airey Neave was blown up, (former Chief of the Defense Staff) Lord Mountbatten was blown up, there was the Enniskillen attack, we had kneecappings…But the British didn't decide to say, 'Well, on the Falls Road (the heart of Catholic Belfast) there undoubtedly may be some IRA members and Republican sympathizers, so therefore let's drop a 2,000-pound bomb on the Falls Road.' You can't do that."


Regarding threats against the ICC, Khan said that every day, the ICC receives threatening messages and suffers other types of pressure.

He noted that the ICC is currently conducting active investigations in the Philippines, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Latin America, Georgia, Ukraine and Palestine.

He said that while they may not be perfect, they are sincere and make decisions based on evidence rather than being swayed by political convenience.


Khan highlighted reports from major aid organizations about emaciated children and dire medical conditions in Gaza.

He said both American and British doctors have reported performing amputations without anesthesia and noted instances of infants dying in incubators due to power cuts and people dying from a lack of insulin.

He criticized the conduct of the war, questioning the relevance of the Geneva Conventions if these actions are considered compliant with international humanitarian law.

Khan also indicated that he had brought together international law experts to prepare separate reports.

He described these experts as highly respected lawyers who have consistently defended principles throughout their careers.


Noting that civilian casualties are an unfortunate reality of armed conflicts, especially in urban areas, Khan said: "It's another thing for civilians to be deliberately targeted. You can't have as a common plan collective punishment."

"It's absolutely legitimate for Israel to have the objective to defeat Hamas and to get hostages out. I support that," he noted. "But the way you engage must be compliant with law."

Khan said the world is going through a highly sensitive period in terms of international law, expressing the view that we are in a dangerous period internationally and if we do not cling to the law, we will have nothing to hold onto.

"Those profound words 'Never Again' are too often becoming ritual incantations, and we are reaching a point where people around the world are not buying it," he added.

On May 20, Khan announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

According to a statement from the ICC, he also sought arrest warrants for Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas's military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades.