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‘Repugnant’: Dutton takes aim at ICC

Written by on May 21, 2024

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has condemned the application by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside senior Hamas figures, branding the move “appalling”.

The comments echo similar calls made by US President Joe Biden, who swiftly condemned the prosecutor’s plea as “outrageous”, taking aim at the equivalence drawn between Israel and Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by some western countries.

“Let me be clear, whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas,” Mr Biden said.

In response, Mr Dutton said Australia “should stand shoulder to shoulder with President Biden”, accusing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of “tarnishing” Australia’s international reputation in choosing not to condemn the ICC’s prosector.

“(Mr Biden) has shown leadership by standing up against this equivalence, which is completely and utterly repugnant to compare the Israeli prime minister to a terrorist organisation leader and to not have some clarity in relation to it, I think is appalling,” Mr Dutton said on Tuesday.

“The Prime Minister squibbed it today when he was asked about this issue, and the Prime Minister had the opportunity at the ICC where Australia was consulted in relation to this matter.

“They didn’t weigh in and say they were against this measure. Instead, they sat on the sideline and had nothing to say about it at all.”

In a press conference earlier on Tuesday, Mr Albanese refused to be drawn on the matter, arguing he would not comment with court processes afoot.

“I don’t comment on court proceedings,” he said.

However, Labor cabinet minister Chris Bowen went a step further, outlining his “respect” for the International Criminal Court.

“International law must be respected and, of course, (it) was not respected by Hamas. Israel must respect international law,” Mr Bowen told Sky News.

“I heard … Peter Dutton’s comments which were, in and of themselves, highly irresponsible … international law must always be observed and nobody gets a free pass for that.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt demanded Mr Albanese support the calls of the ICC prosecutor.

“With food running out, with children now dying because they can’t get enough to eat or drink, with aid being cut off, it is time for Labor to not only back this latest step from the International Criminal Court, but to take action against this extreme war cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu,” Mr Bandt said.

The Greens leader also accused Israel of conducting a genocide, an allegation which has not been made by the ICC’s chief prosecutor.

The allegations levelled by the ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan against Israel centre on the government and military decisions, which have resulted in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

These actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the ICC’s prosecutor claims.

More than 35,000 people have been killed inside the embattled enclave since the war broke out in October, most of whom are civilians, according to health authorities.

If granted, the arrest warrant requests could potentially hamstring Israel’s ability to continue its war against Hamas.

Indeed, the country may struggle to import weapons, while Mr Netanyahu, and the country’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant would face prosecution if they travelled to countries that have ratified the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC’s operations.

Israel, nor the United States, are signatories.

Meanwhile, the ICC’s prosecutor accused Hamas’ military leaders Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, of similarly perpetuating war crimes and crimes against humanity over its bloody incursion on Israeli soil on October 7 that left 1200 dead.

The impact of an arrest warrant will likely pose a lesser risk to Hamas — Mr Sinwar and Mr Deif are believed to be hiding in Gaza, while Mr Haniyeh is residing in Qatar, which is not a signatory to the statute.

“Today, we once again underline that international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Mr Khan said on Monday.

“No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader — no one — can act with impunity.”

The ICC, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, investigates and, where warranted, tries high profile individuals charged which breaching humanitarian law.

Mr Khan’s application will now be heard by a three-judge panel, with a finding expected within the next few weeks.

The ICC has previously issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir, though their record of successful prosecutions is slim.