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Israel's prime minister worries the ICC will soon issue arrest warrants for Israelis


Israeli officials are expressing concern that the International Criminal Court is considering arrest warrants for senior government leaders. Here's Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on TV on Tuesday.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: This ICC attempt is an attempt to paralyze Israel's very ability to defend itself.

MARTÍNEZ: Arrest warrants for Hamas officials may also be coming, but the ICC says it does not comment on ongoing investigations, so we don't know what specific actions the court is weighing. Let's bring on Oona Hathaway, a professor of international law and director of the Center for Global Legal Challenges at Yale University. Professor, you wrote an essay for Foreign Affairs that the conflict in Gaza is an extreme example of the breakdown of the law of war. What could ICC arrest warrants be associated with there?

OONA HATHAWAY: Well, ICC arrest warrants - if they're issued - and of course, we don't know for sure that they will be issued, but rumors are swirling that they will - will likely be issued both against Hamas - members of Hamas for the crimes that they carried out on October 7 and ongoing crimes, including the continued holding of hostages. And then there also are likely to be arrest warrants issued against Israeli government officials. And that would likely be both for restraining the delivery of humanitarian aid that's led to famine for many in the Gaza Strip and for targeting decisions that had been made in the course of the fighting.

MARTÍNEZ: What effect could these arrest warrants have on individual leaders 'cause the ICC investigates and prosecutes individuals, not governments?

HATHAWAY: Exactly. Exactly. So that's what - why it takes so long for it to make these decisions. It has to investigate the situation on the ground. It has to not just determine that something has happened that might possibly be in violation of international law, but it actually has to identify the individuals responsible for that. And so they are undoubtedly investigating that and preparing their arrest warrants. And they'll have to determine that particular individuals made decisions that led to outcomes that are in violation of international law and that they did so with the intent to violate the law. So it's a lengthy process that ordinarily requires many months, sometimes even years.

And Karim Khan's team has been limited in their ability to access the Gaza Strip. And so he's had to work on this from the outside, trying to make decisions about whether to issue arrest warrants based on the information that he can gather from Israel and from neighboring countries.

MARTÍNEZ: So there could be more warrants later on or more crimes being accused later on if they get access to Gaza?

HATHAWAY: Absolutely. And in fact, we're seeing that in Ukraine, for instance, where we're seeing arrest warrants issued initially against Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova and then another round of warrants, and we're certainly going to see more there as well. Here in Gaza, I would expect that there will be - if there are arrest warrants issued, that there'll be an initial set issued, and then there very well likely could be additional ones issued as more information is gathered. So it doesn't necessarily happen all at once. It will happen sort of - initially, all the facts that they have available to them that make, in their view, the strongest case for potential crimes - those'll be what they'll issue. And I would expect that it would be issued in a way that would be meant to appear somewhat balanced between the two sides of the...


HATHAWAY: ...Conflict. So I would be surprised if they didn't issue arrest warrants against both members of Hamas and the Israeli government at the same time.

MARTÍNEZ: So let's just say the arrest warrants are issued to both Hamas and the members of Israel's government. Does that do anything for the war in Gaza? Does that change anything - affect anything?

HATHAWAY: Well, it does mean that there could be consequences for continuing to wage the war in the way that it's been waged. I mean, obviously, we've seen a case proceeding in the International Court of Justice, but that's against Israel as a state rather than individuals. Here, these individuals may actually be at risk of potentially being personally at risk, not being able to travel and eventually perhaps even being arrested and subject to criminal trial. So those are very direct consequences.

MARTÍNEZ: Oona Hathaway is the director of Yale's Center for Global Legal Challenges. Thank you very much, Professor.

HATHAWAY: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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