Labour could drop bid to delay ICC arrest warrant for Netanyahu

Labour could drop bid to delay ICC arrest warrant for Netanyahu
The Labour government is expected to drop its challenge to the International Criminal Court over Netanyahu's arrest warrant, in a possible shift of the party.
2 min read
08 July, 2024
The ICC issued arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders in May [GETTY]

The newly elected Labour government is expected to drop its legal bid to delay the International Criminal Court (ICC) from deciding to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to reports.

The shift on the ICC issue, reported by The Guardian, marks a possible change in Labour's policy toward Israel, which has been roundly criticised during the Gaza war, where mass suspected war crimes have been committed.

It follows ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announcement in May that he was seeking arrest warrants for top Israeli figures including Netanyahu and Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh.

To issue an arrest warrant, the prosecutor must request it from a pre-trial panel of three judges, who take an average of two months to consider the evidence and determine if the proceedings can proceed.

However, in June, the UK government - under Tory leadership - intervened to delay this decision, arguing that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israeli nationals and pointed out that Israel is not a member of the court.

Court documents revealed the UK and an ICC member states secretly filed a request to provide written observations on whether "the court can exercise jurisdiction over Israeli nationals, in circumstances where Palestine cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction over Israeli nationals (under) the Oslo Accords".

The ICC ruled in 2021 that despite Palestine not being a sovereign state, the ICC had jurisdiction over any violations in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The UK argued that the Palestinian authorities cannot have jurisdiction over Israeli nationals under the Oslo Accords, meaning it cannot transfer that jurisdiction over to the ICC.

While the pre-trial chamber gave the UK until 12 July to submit its full claim, The Guardian reported on Monday that it was now "highly unlikely" the new government, headed since the weekend by Prime Minister Kier Starmer's Labour Party, will proceed with it.

This will lift the delay in the pre-chamber ruling on the request.

While Starmer's government has dropped the pause on the ICC proceedings, it was reported in January that Labour would not unconditionally recognise a Palestinian state if he were to win the general elections.

However, Starmer said in May he wants to recognise a Palestinian state if he wins power so long as it contributes to a renewed peace process.

The Israeli government has ruled out peace with Palestinians based on a two-state solution.