ICC action against Israeli  leaders vindicates SA, experts say President Ramaphosa

Herald Correspondents

The decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to seek arrest warrants against Israeli leaders for war crimes in the Gaza Strip against Palestinians vindicates South Africa’s calls for tough action against the Zionist regime, experts have said.

Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor, announced this Monday that his office had requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders and Hamas officials for suspected war crimes committed during the October 7 attack on southern Israel, which was spearheaded by Hamas, and Israel’s ensuing war on Gaza.

The request comes after South Africa in January, with the support of developing nations, took Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing it of genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which it denied. However, the court accepted that South Africa’s application had substance on Israeli genocidal acts.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday welcomed the ICC’s decision.

“The law must be applied equally to all in order to uphold the international rule of law, ensure accountability for those that commit heinous crimes and protect the rights of victims. South Africa is committed to the international rule of law, universal respect for human rights and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation and not war, and the self-determination of all peoples, including the Palestinians,” said President Ramaphosa.

US President Joe Biden however said the application for an arrest warrant against Israeli leaders was “outrageous”.

“Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none– between Israel and Hamas,” he said.

International relations analysts yesterday said South Africa, as a signatory to the ICC’s Roman Statute, felt vindicated by this decision.

Dr Ronald Chipaike, a lecturer at Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE), said despite South Africa feeling vindicated, the ICC’s decision however did not have effect.

“South Africa is state party to the ICC statute, hence it must be feeling vindicated by this decision. However, the ICJ is a different court which mainly hears disputes between states and so far, the decisions have favoured SA’s position.

“But this again does not have power or effect since there are no enforcement measures nor the will to enforce them if states are called to do so. This is an inherent weakness of international institutions who find themselves powerless in the face of such important matters,” Dr Chipaike said.

Dr Chipaike also indicated that the warrants being sought only carry a moral effect not a political one as no country would hand over another state leader to the ICC.

“These warrants only have a moral effect but not a political one. Israel is not a party to the ICC statute so is the USA. Not many countries would participate in handing over another state leader to the ICC even if the country in question is a state party to the ICC statute.

“So nothing tangible can be expected from these warrants at all,” he added.

Dr David Makwerere also said the South African government’s case added the urgency and impetus to the matter. He observed that “atrocities in Gaza cannot go unpunished”.

“The atrocities committed in Gaza cannot go unpunished. It was gross manslaughter and a violation of the International Law on Armed Conflict or Humanitarian Laws, especially on four Geneva protocols.

“Whether there was a South African application or not, there was and there is a case to answer for the antagonists.

“South Africa may have added some urgency and impetus to the matter. It red-flagged a very bad situation that needed the ICC intervention and obviously it indirectly or directly forced ICC into some action,” said Dr Makwerere.

He however noted that the support of the US and British governments to Israel will likely compromise the effectiveness of the court as the ICC was extremely subjective.

“Geopolitical and power play makes this case extremely difficult. Israel was midwifed by Britain and the US, therefore, they will always fight in her (Israel’s) corner.

“The ICC itself is viewed as extremely subjective and under the influence of the West. With this kind of background, I am sure that even if prosecutions are to occur, the process will likely be compromised,” added Dr Makwerere.

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