Dutch lawmaker challenges government over role in Israeli harassment of ICC

Dutch lawmaker challenges government over role in Israeli harassment of ICC
The Netherlands’ Kati Piri has criticised the Dutch government over its potential role in Israel’s alleged harassment of the ICC since 2015
3 min read
21 June, 2024
Member of the European Parliament Kati Piri speaks during the "EU-UK future relationship" press conference in June 2020 [Getty]

A Dutch lawmaker has challenged her country’s government over its alleged role in Israel’s years-long harassment of the International Criminal Court.

Kati Piri, a member of the Netherlands' Labour Party submitted a formal inquiry last month regarding allegations of Israeli interference with the ICC and called on the Dutch government to be transparent regarding what it knew about this.

The ICC is based in the Dutch city of The Hague. 

Piri previously served as the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey and routinely drew Turkish ire for her criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and alleged rights abuses by his government. 

In an interview with US news outlet HuffPost, Piri said that there were questions about the extent of the Netherlands’ knowledge of the actions of Israel’s government and military. 

Last month, The Guardian revealed a nine-year Israeli campaign of harassment and intimidation against ICC officials.

"I cannot imagine the Dutch government having no information about these practices. Then, of course, the logical question is: What were the political consequences and were there any? If not, how can we as a host country pretend that we are protecting these international institutions?" Piri told HuffPost.   

"Even if they tried everything, they were not able to prevent this harassment from taking place."

According to HuffPost, Piri set June 18 as the deadline for Dutch foreign, justice and interior ministers to submit a response, as requested by Piri and two other politicians. 

The Dutch foreign ministry has yet to publicly confirm when a reply will be issued. 

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Accusing the Netherlands of taking insufficient action to protect the ICC, she told HuffPost that as a small nation, her country should abide by international law which is "very important for protecting our trade, for protecting our values".

Piri said that Dutch officials should have actively protected the ICC and upheld international law by thoroughly investigating potential Israeli espionage and taking decisive action if it was confirmed.  

She suggested that Dutch authorities should have privately reprimanded Israeli officials, expelled any Israeli spies posing as diplomats, or utilized a new Dutch law against cyber surveillance, which imposes prison sentences of up to eight years. 

 According to Piri, these steps would demonstrate the Netherlands' commitment to supporting the ICC and maintaining the integrity of international legal standards. 

"I’m afraid that they will hide behind the fact that a lot of this is intelligence information and therefore cannot be shared publicly," she told HuffPost.  

"I hope that I’m wrong- that they really do everything behind closed doors to keep people safe and to pressure Israel to stop these practices."

The allegations predate the ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s application to issue arrest warrants against top Israeli leaders amid Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza since 7 October. 

According to The Guardian, the head of Israel's Mossad foreign intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen threatened Fatou Bensouda, the ICC's former chief prosecutor during a series of meetings, after she opened an investigation in 2015 into potential Israel war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Legal experts and former ICC officials believe the pressure on Bensouda could amount to offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome statute.