Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Expert Explains: Why the ICC Prosecutor has asked for an arrest warrant against Netanyahu, and what could happen now


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About International Criminal Court (ICC)

Mains level: World peace and challenges; International Courts and Justice;

Why in the News?

On 20 May 2024, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants against leaders of Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel about the events of October 7, 2023, and the conflict in Palestine.

What is the International Criminal Court?

  • The International Criminal Court formed in 2002, is an Intergovernmental Organization and International Tribunal seated in the Hague, Netherlands.
  • It deals with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
  • Unlike the international tribunals, the International Criminal Court is a permanent body.

Against whom has the Prosecutor requested warrants of arrest?

Specifically, warrants have been sought for senior Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, along with Netanyahu and Israel’s Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant.

The process of ICC decision-making and the scope of the present case:

  • ICC decisions are binding, but they rely on the cooperation of member states for support.
    • A panel of judges at the ICC must decide on the Prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants.
    • If approved, all State Parties are obligated to cooperate, including arresting and extraditing the accused individuals to The Hague.
    • This could restrict international travel for Netanyahu and Gallant, affecting visits to countries that are State Parties to the Rome Statute.
  • Israel is not a Party to the Rome Statute. However, the ICC does have jurisdiction over crimes committed by nationals of both State Parties  (such as Palestine) and Non-state Parties (such as Israel) on the territory of a State Party (such as Palestine).

International Criminal Court (ICC) Vs. International Court of Justice (ICJ) 

Relationship with the UN ICC is an independent organization not part of the United Nations ICJ is an integral part of the UN and acts as its primary judicial branch
Members ICC has around 105 members, focusing on prosecuting individuals for crimes. ICJ has all 193 UN member countries as its members, primarily resolving disputes between states
Derivation of Authority ICC derives its authority from the Rome Statute, focusing on prosecuting individuals for crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. ICJ derives its authority from the Charter of the United Nations, settling disputes between countries based on international law
Funding It mainly functions on contributions made by state parties to the Rome Statute and voluntary contributions Its funding sources differ based on its status as an organ of the United Nations


Way forward:

  • Need Enhanced Cooperation: Encouraging greater cooperation between the ICC and the UN to strengthen their effectiveness in addressing international crimes.
  • Need Wider Membership: Advocating for more countries to become State Parties to the Rome Statute to broaden the ICC’s jurisdiction and reach.

Mains PYQ:

Q India’s relations with Israel have, of late, acquired a depth and diversity, which cannot be rolled back.” Discuss. (UPSC IAS/2018)

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