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Open Society Urges Respect for ICC’s Independence After Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrants for Senior Israeli and Hamas Officials

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations welcome the decision of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to seek arrest warrants for senior Israeli and Hamas leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in southern Israel and Gaza since October 7 last year. 

Before the issuance of warrants, a panel of ICC judges will determine whether preliminary evidence submitted by the court’s prosecutor demonstrates that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that the crimes alleged have been committed. 

Open Society calls on all states to respect the prosecutorial and judicial independence of the court, and reminds all 124 ICC members of their obligations under the Rome Statute that established the court of their specific obligations to cooperate with and assist the court—and to execute warrants of arrest.   

While Israel is not a member of the ICC, the State of Palestine became a member of the court in 2015, giving the ICC jurisdiction over alleged grave crimes committed both by its nationals and on its territory—regardless of the nationality of the alleged perpetrators.  

The Office of the Prosecutor opened an initial investigation into the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in March 2021.   

While the United States is not a member of the court and has a long-standing objection to its jurisdiction extending to nationals of non-member countries, the Biden administration and senior members of Congress affirmatively supported the ICC’s decision to issue arrest warrants in March 2023 against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Russia, like Israel, has not acceded to the Rome Statute and is not an ICC member states.  

In the 1990s, the Open Society Foundations supported the international campaign that led to the global diplomatic agreement in 1998 to create the ICC and have played a critical role in supporting the court’s dialogue with civil society groups during its more than two decades of existence. 

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said:  

“The international community is facing a test of its commitment to the principles of international law that it enshrined more than 20 years ago in the Rome Statute. It is incumbent on all of us who believe in a law-based global system to support the court.” 

The indictments come against the background of the continuing conflict in Gaza. Over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, more than 70,000 injured, and at least 1.7 million displaced, while over a million people are at risk of famine as a result of Israel’s military assault on Gaza, launched in response to Hamas’s killing of more than 1,200 Israelis on October 7 and 8, and the taking of at least 245 Israelis as hostages. 

Open Society today renews its urgent call for an immediate ceasefire, release of hostages, provision of humanitarian assistance, accountability for crimes on all sides of the conflict, and a commitment to providing the people of Israel and Palestine with the justice they are owed and the peace they need. 

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