SA welcomes action against Netanyahu, Hamas leaders

Henry

South Africa, which led international efforts to have Israel’s attack on Gaza declared genocide, has welcomed a request to issue an international warrant against the leaders of Israel and Hamas.

Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa praised International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan’s request to this court to grant warrants against the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and three Hamas leaders.

In a separate case, South Africa filed a complaint in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In this case, the country argues that Israel’s campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide.

However, the Ramaphosa government is labeled as inconsistent in its attitude towards international law. Among other things, South Africa asked to be excused from enforcing a warrant to arrest Pres. to arrest Vladimir Putin of Russia, he would attend a Brics summit in Johannesburg.

However, Ramaphosa was unequivocal in his support for the latest prosecution request to issue new warrants.

“South Africa is committed to international law, universal respect for human rights and the settlement of all international disputes through negotiation – and not war – and the self-determination of all people, including the Palestinians,” he said.

A statement from the presidency reads: “South Africa welcomes the decision… on the application for arrest warrants for the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, as well as three leaders of Hamas, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in terms of the Rome -statute of the International Criminal Court within the framework of the existing conflict in Gaza.

“The law must be applied equally to all to ensure the international rule of law and accountability for all those who commit heinous crimes, and to protect the rights of victims.”

Israel, Hamas condemn move

Israel and Hamas reacted angrily to moves to have their leaders arrested.

Israel filed the application for a warrant for Netanyahu and min. Yoav Gallant called it a “historic shame”, while the Palestinian militant group Hamas “strongly rejected” it.

Netanyahu said he “rejects with contempt the Hague prosecutor’s comparison between a democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas”.

Khan said in a statement earlier that he was applying for the warrants against Israeli leaders for crimes including “deliberate death”, “extermination and/or murder” and “starvation”.

In a war sparked by Hamas’ October 7 attack, Khan says Israel has “committed crimes against humanity” as part of “a widespread and systemic attack against the Palestinian civilian population”.

He also says the leader of Hamas, including Ismail Haniyeh – who is based in Qatar – and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions during the October 7 attacks. These include “taking hostages”, “rape and other sexual violence” and “torture”.

“International law and legislation on armed conflict applies to everyone,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity.”

If the judges of the International Criminal Court grant the warrants, it technically means that any of the 124 member states of the court would be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others, should they visit those countries. However, the court has no way to enforce warrants.

Israel’s biggest ally, the US, rejected the application to the court. Pres. Joe Biden called it “outrageous” and said there was no comparison whatsoever between Israel and Hamas.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, has meanwhile warned that the move could derail ongoing efforts for a cease-fire in Gaza.