UK lawmakers demand govt comply

  • Post last modified:May 23, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Cross party MPs and Lords have signed a letter calling on the UK government to respect the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the attempted arrest warrants.

Neither Labour Party leader Keir Starmer nor shadow foreign secretary David Lammy have backed the letter. But Lammy said that Labour:

supports the ICC as a cornerstone of the international legal system . . . whether it is in Ukraine, Sudan, Syria or Gaza

That raises the question of why the Labour leadership has covered for longstanding Israel’s war crimes. Starmer even backed collective punishment of Palestinians on LBC.

And if Labour upholds the ICC, would they support a warrant against its former leader Tony Blair for the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003?

‘Do not undermine the ICC’ on Israel

The letter, organised by Richard Burgon and Imran Hussain, comes after ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan announced he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant, as well as for three Hamas leaders.

The UK is one of 124 countries party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, including nearly all European countries. But Rishi Sunak has attempted to undermine its authority. He condemned the effort to apply international law to dominant Western-backed state Israel:

This is a deeply unhelpful development. Of course it is still subject to a final decision, but it remains deeply unhelpful nonetheless.

There is no moral equivalence between a democratic state exercising its lawful right to self defense and the terrorist group Hamas. It is wrong to conflate and equivocate between those two different entities.

The ICC’s Khan has documented evidence of Israel systematically starving the Palestinian people and intentionally targeting civilians as a means of collective punishment. Israel has killed over 15,000 children since 7 October.

In the letter to foreign secretary David Cameron, MPs and peers called on him to “condemn any threats and attempts to undermine the independence and impartiality of the ICC in its investigations into crimes in Gaza”.

Western leaders seek impunity

Khan said to CNN that he is facing threats in an attempt to shield Israel from accountability. He also said a “senior leader” told him:

This court is built for Africa and for thugs like Putin

US Republican lawmakers have publicly stated they will retaliate against the court. Congressman Anthony D’Esposito said “there will be serious consequences if they proceed.”

US president Joe Biden, meanwhile, condemned the ICC seeking arrest warrants against Israel as “outrageous”.

In other words, Western leaders are arguing that international law does not apply to the West or its allies.

Under Donald Trump, the US previously put economic and travel sanctions on ICC prosecutors for their investigation into US military torture in Afghanistan.

The letter also points out that threatening the ICC is itself a violation of international law. It outlaws “impeding, intimidating or corruptly influencing an official of the Court for the purpose of forcing or persuading the official not to perform, or to perform improperly, his or her duties”.

The ICC’s statement does not mention Israel’s illegal occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank in Palestine.

Ensuring Western states and their allies face accountability under international law is key to achieving a lasting peace.

Featured image via Oxford Union – YouTube and Janta Ka Reporter – YouTube

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