Editorial: Arrest warrants for Israeli leaders; Alert for perpetrators of atrocities in NW, SW.

It is flabbergasting that the process for arrest warrants to bring to justice leaders of Israel for war crimes in Gaza has been engaged.

The bolt from the blue is that the country is not just an exemplary democracy, but is firmly protected by the military and the economic supremacy of the United States of America.

After months of gathering evidence, the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, ICC, Karim Khan, on May 20, announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant. 

On the other side of the conflict, he is processing the same warrants for Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar; the Head of Gaza’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh; and the boss of its military wing, Mohammed Deif.     

The Israelis are accused of using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”, “extermination”, “willfully causing great suffering” and deliberately “directing attacks against civilians”.

Their antagonists are accused of “extermination”, “taking hostages” and “torture”.

The devastating atrocities started on October 7, 2023, when Hamas invaded Israel and about 1,139 Israelis were killed with some 250 others taken hostage.

In the war of brutal retaliation, the Israelis, as of this week, are reported to have killed more than 35,500 Palestinians in a campaign of violence that the UN Special Rapporteur, Francesca Albanese; and other legal experts have termed as a genocide. 

It is a term that has been used by some extremists to classify the conflict in the North West and South West Regions.

The Guardian Post diametrically differs with those who make that comparison with the fighting in the North West and South West Regions.

What is not in contention is that in the two English-speaking Regions, during the fighting, which is in its seventh year, entire villages are reported to have been razed to ashes in some instances with people in them. 

By consecutive estimates, over 6,000 people have been reportedly killed.

The media have been replete with reports of people murdered in drinking spots, dragged out of hospital and killed, hospitals burnt, schools closed, and others murdered in the church, which are places sacrosanct in any war, be it international or asymmetric.

Are those not war crimes deserving of taking the perpetrators to the ICC?

On February 18 this year, a Cameroonian lawyer, Barrister Emmanuel Nsahlai, based in the United States, filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court against some separatist leaders. 

He accused them of committing crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

He was pleading for an investigation and prosecution of 16 separatist leaders who are alleged to have orchestrated, funded, and directed a campaign of violence and terror against the civilian population in Cameroon, especially those who are loyal to the central government.

Earlier, Hans de Marie Heungoup, a researcher on Central Africa at the International Crisis Group, said in international media that some of the crimes being committed in the two crisis-hit Regions, do indeed fall within the ICC's mandate. 

"There are crimes that fall within the ICC's jurisdiction, including war crimes. When there is systematic targeting, when there is repeated shooting at civilians, when schools, hospitals and entire villages are set on fire by security forces, we think there is a war crime," Heungoup said.

He added that: "Crimes are being committed by both sides; separatists have kidnapped and executed dozens of civilians... security forces have also committed these crimes. And yet they are the ones who have been trained in academies where they have received training to ensure the safety of people and their property".

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, had also reported that "Civilians trapped between these two powerful, if asymmetric, opposing forces, are increasingly vulnerable to lethal abuses and violations by both sides". 

At the initiative of the United States, the UN Security Council held an informal session on Cameroon in May, 2019. 

In a statement issued before the meeting, Human Rights Watch pointed out that: “In the follow-up to this meeting, the UN Security Council should make Cameroon a formal item on its agenda and press authorities to investigate members of the security forces alleged to have carried out killings and destruction of property and prosecute those responsible. It should also publicly announce to armed separatist groups that their leaders will be held responsible for serious crimes committed by their fighters”.

There are always two sides to a coin, like in war or conflict. That should explain why warrants of arrest are being processed for Israeli and Gaza leaders.

The swift reactions for the warrants is based on the enormity of destruction, killings and bombing. But could the longevity of the Anglophone conflict, with its macabre and barbaric killings, even in places immune to war, not also attract ICC warrants for the promoters and sponsors of the inhuman atrocities?

As the legal proceedings unfold in the Middle East, it should navigate as an alert in the thoughts of those promoting, sponsoring and reaping from the inhuman war crimes in the North West and South West Regions to think twice. Tomorrow, the sword of justice could slice them.



This story was first published in The Guardian Post issue No3127 of Friday May 31, 2024


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