UK Labour reaffirms backing of ICC as Israeli leaders face arrest warrants

UK Labour reaffirms backing of ICC as Israeli leaders face arrest warrants
UK Shadow Foreign Secretary confirms the opposition party’s stance on the court’s efforts, stating it is the ‘cornerstone’ of international law.
3 min read
Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, stands in front of the Martyrs Monument and the Al Amin Mosque in Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut during a visit to Lebanon [Photo by Oliver Marsden/ Middle East Images/ Middle East Images via AFP]

The UK’s Labour Party has reaffirmed its backing of the International Criminal Court (ICC), after its chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced a request for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes. 

The Labour Party's shadow secretary, David Lammy, defended the world court and argued the importance of the ICC’s independence. 

This comes after a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared that the ICC prosecutor's decision to request an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "unhelpful". 

"This action is not helpful in relation to reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out or getting humanitarian aid in," the spokesperson said, referring to the decision made by the prosecutor of the ICC. 

The spokesperson also claimed the ICC did not have the jurisdiction to request the arrest warrants. 

Following the UK government’s response, Lammy spoke to members of the British parliament on Monday to emphasise that international laws must be abided by.

"Labour has been clear throughout this conflict that international law must be upheld," Lammy said. 

"The independence of international courts must be respected."

Live Story

He added that "arrest warrants are not a conviction or determination of guilt, but they do reflect the evidence and judgement of the prosecutor about the grounds for individual criminal responsibility".

In a direct jab to his political opponents, Lammy also posed the following question: "Does the Conservative party, the party of Churchill...believe in international rule of law or not?"

The British deputy foreign minister Andrew Mitchell later told parliament that the ICC's decision would not have an immediate impact on the government's approval of licences so companies can sell weapons to Israel

"The fact that the prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants to be issued does not directly impact, for example, on UK licensing decisions but we will continue to monitor developments," Mitchell said. 

Labour has stepped up its criticism within the past month against the Conservative government on its response to the war on Gaza. 

The opposition group pushed for the Tories to publish legal advice on Israel’s military conduct in the besieged territory, while urging government ministers to halt weapons supply to Israel if legal experts found there were international law violations in Gaza. 

Live Story

However, Labour has faced criticism following Labour leader Keir Starmer’s stance, who had asserted Israel's "right to defend itself" and refusal to back an immediate ceasefire, causing many members to resign. 

A group of councillors have since resigned from the party after 7 October over Starmer's position, while eight shadow ministers and two parliamentary secretaries quit the party in November after 56 MPs backed the motion of Scottish National Party (SNP) calling for a ceasefire. 

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 35,7000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since 7 October, and wounded at least 79,990 others.

The bombing campaign has devastated entire parts of the enclave, and plunged the Strip into a deep humanitarian crisis.