Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh may be charged as war criminal

In a groundbreaking step, the International Criminal Court accepted a petition against Ismail Haniyeh, filed by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice in 2017.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is considering opening a war crimes probe against Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, according to a letter sent Tuesday to Knesset members by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), which petitioned the court.

“For the first time ever, the International Criminal Court in the Hague sent us an official response regarding our first request, sent in 2017… against Ismail Haniyeh,” JIJ CEO Flavia Sevald wrote the MKs.

“We were told that subsequent to the gathering of evidentiary material against Haniyeh, and examining the information, the court will decide whether to open a criminal investigation as requested,” she wrote.

The 2017 file that the JIJ sent the court detailed a list of human rights abuses committed by Hamas, which had been led by Haniyeh as the Gaza Strip’s prime minister since the organization seized power in 2007. As of May 2017, his current title is Chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau.

The human rights organization charged Hamas with committing a number of war crimes, not only by launching indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

JIJ’s exhaustive report also raised Hamas’s abuses of its own population. These included recruiting children under the age of 15, inspiring them to participate in riots at the border fence with Israel, and using them as human shields.

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Sevald acknowledged that there was a long way to go before Haniyeh could see the inside of a courtroom, but emphasized the importance of starting the process.

“Although this is a preliminary stage in the judicial process, it is the first breakthrough ever in the matter,” she noted.

“This development is important to Israel, since in our opinion, using legal means to continue the battle against human rights violations in the territories and the ignoring of international law is an important tool for strengthening the image of the State of Israel.”

The Israeli NGO handed the ICC a second request for a criminal probe against Hamas last September, and a third just this past March.

The last request also asked that the ICC open an investigation against Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas for war crimes against his own people, such as arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and unlawful killings.