Keir won’t say if he’d uphold ICC arrest warrants

  • Post last modified:May 29, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has again refused to say whether he would enforce an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


On 20 May, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders.

Speaking to Channel 4, Starmer said:

I want to see the decision they make, I want to see what warrants they actually issue, what they don’t. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals – what ifs down the road.

Apparently, Israel killing at least 15,000 children, starving the Gaza population, targeting civilian infrastructure, and assassinating aid workers are ‘hypotheticals’.

In Glasgow on 24 May, Starmer also sidestepped the question of whether he would enforce international arrest warrants as prime minister.

The UK is a member state of the ICC. Legal experts say the UK is obliged to arrest Gallant and Netanyahu if the ICC issues warrants and they enter the country.

Conservative and Labour – both protecting Israel’s war criminals

But David Cameron’s government in 2011 changed the law to protect allied war criminals from arrest in the UK.

Upholding international law now required the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). At the time, this was none other than Starmer.

Later in 2011, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and law firm Hickman & Rose requested that Starmer approve the arrest of former Israeli minister of foreign affairs Tzipi Livni.

The case included “extensive evidence indicating Ms Livni’s individual criminal responsibility” for war crimes in Palestine. But Starmer still refused to authorise the arrest.

Threats against the ICC

It’s not just the risk of Israel’s allies failing to enforce the arrests that could prevent justice.

ICC prosecutor Khan has said he is facing threats in an attempt to shield Israel from accountability. The Guardian has reported that such threats against the ICC are longstanding.

The former head of Mossad – Israel’s foreign intelligence agency – said to former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda:

You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.

Bensouda opened the investigation into Israeli war crimes in 2021. But it took Israel’s latest genocidal assault on Palestine for Bensouda’s successor Khan to request arrest warrants.

If the UK upheld international law and didn’t support aggressive foreign policy, it could have moral authority in terms of foreign affairs.

But instead it looks like both the Conservative and Labour leadership will attempt to protect allied war criminals from justice. We can’t let them get away with it.

Featured image via Channel 4 News – YouTube

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