Secret arrests, trumped-up charges: Worst-case scenario of ICC ‘war crimes’ trial

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says ICC could theoretically ask to arrest “hundreds” of Israelis for trumped-up “war-crimes” charges.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Are you a former Israeli soldier looking to take your family on vacation in Italy? You might want to think again.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Wednesday that it will investigate Israel for war crimes surrounding its 2014 Operation Protective Edge and other events.

It could spell big trouble for IDF soldiers. Not only is the ICC able to issue secret arrest warrants, the court’s member states are obliged to comply with those warrants.

In short, Israeli soldiers could be scooped up in an ICC dragnet.

ICC arrest warrants can be issued secretly and “because all member states of the ICC are obligated to execute such warrants and transfer the subject to the court in The Hague, it could significantly affect the ability of senior Israeli and Palestinian figures to travel to many countries,” the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) said.

Not only soldiers have reason to worry. The ICC may decide construction in Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem is a war crime. Israel Hayom suggests on Thursday that even construction workers might be caught up by the court’s secret warrants.

Daniel Pomerantz, CEO of the watchdog organization Honest Reporting and a lecturer at Bar Ilan University said the implications of the ICC move are serious for all Israelis, not just those who served in the IDF.

“We saw a number of years ago that there were some countries in the world that tried to apply international jurisdiction to Israel, and Israeli leaders were unable to leave the country for fear of being arrested in places presumably as friendly as Spain or the United Kingdom,” Pomerantz said in a recent Kan Radio interview.

“Now we can have a situation where any Israeli who’s ever served in the Israeli army in any capacity, even as a cook, any Israeli who has ever lived in the wrong part of Jerusalem, even a civilian, could be arrested and brought to trial at the Hague and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for being a ‘war criminal’,” Pomerantz said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Reuters that the number of Israelis affected would depend on if the ICC investigation results in criminal investigations.

“I guess several hundred, but we will take care of everybody,” Gantz said, calling it “an estimate” and declining to say if Israel has drawn up a list of officials, but adding that the country will provide legal assistance to any indicted Israelis and will give them legal warnings regarding travel if necessary.

Asked if he himself might change his travel plans in light of the ICC probe, Gantz told Reuters “So far, no.”

The decision by the chief prosecutor at the ICC on Wednesday may take years to play out in court.

The Palestinians convinced the court to investigate in three areas: 1) the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza 2) protests on the Gaza border fence in 2018, and 3) settlements in Judea and Samaria, with the Palestinians claiming that housing construction constitutes a “war crime.”

However, the ICC will investigate Operation Protective Edge from the starting date of June 13, 2014 – the day after Hamas terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli high school students, the event that sparked the conflict with Gaza.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of Shurat Hadin Israeli Law Center in Jerusalem, which wages a legal battle against terror financing, said that Israel is in the same boat as the U.S., which the ICC plans to investigate for war crimes in Afghanistan.

[T]he U.S... and Jerusalem should… work with its allies worldwide and take a firm stand against any nation that cooperates with the ICC’s investigation,” Darshan-Leitner writes in Israel Hayom. “The battle to pervert an investigation has failed. The war for Israel’s vindication has begun.”