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SA welcomes ICC prosecutor’s decision to apply for warrants of arrests

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South Africa has welcomed the decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to apply for warrants of arrests against the leadership of both Hamas and Israel.

Karim Kahn has formally requested the judges of the pre-trial Chamber of the ICC to review his application that could lead to indictments against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and the leadership of Hamas including Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh in relation to actions taken since and including Hamas’ attack on October 7th.

In a statement, the presidency stressed that the law must be applied equally for the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity being put forward by the prosecutor.

Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya says South Africa is committed to the settlement of international disputes by negotiation and not war.

“SA is committed to the international rule of law, universal respect for human rights and the settlement of all international disputes but negotiation and not war and the self-determination of all peoples including the Palestinians,” he says.

“We have also consistently held that all participants to the conflict must ensure that fighting and hostilities come to an immediate end, that all hostages must be released immediately and that Israel withdraws his military forces from Gaza. This is the only way that the rights of Palestinian civilian population can be protected and the basis for sustainable peace can be achieved,” he adds.

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South Africa’s position is in stark contrast to that of the United States after a statement from President Joe Biden describing the arrest warrants against Israeli leaders as outrageous.

The US does not believe the court has jurisdiction over both Israel or Hamas because it does not recognize Palestine as a state despite a decision by the judges of the ICC affirming in 2021 its criminal jurisdiction within the territorial scope of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Biden says that whatever Khan might imply, there was no equivalence between the actions of Israel and Hamas, adding that the United States would always stand with Israel against threats to its security. This followed a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying the United States fundamentally rejected the announcement by the prosecutor, arguing the court did not have jurisdiction.

He further argues that the ICC was established as a court of limited jurisdiction, rooted in complimentary which he says does not appear to have been applied here, questioning why Khan did not defer to the ongoing investigations by Israeli authorities.

Blinken says the decision does not help efforts to secure a ceasefire between the two sides.

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