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Amal Clooney supports ICC’s decision to seek arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders

Human rights attorney Amal Clooney is among a group of legal experts who advised the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to seek arrest warrants against the top leaders of Israel and Hamas.

The panel was convened by the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan and tasked to review the evidence and legal analysis underpinning his application for warrants against three Hamas leaders and two Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It issued a detailed legal report on Monday, which said the panel found “reasonable grounds to believe” that the individuals named in the arrest warrants have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Clooney, who has represented victims of mass atrocities, faced online criticism prior to her announcement for not speaking about Israel’s siege on Gaza. In a statement shared on her Clooney Foundation for Justice website on Monday, she explained how she had found herself advising Khan.

“More than four months ago, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asked me to assist him with evaluating evidence of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and Gaza,” the statement said. “I agreed and joined a panel of international legal experts to undertake this task.”

She said the panel’s findings were “unanimous” despite their diverse backgrounds. “I served on this panel because I believe in the rule of law and the need to protect civilian lives. The law that protects civilians in war was developed more than 100 years ago and it applies in every country in the world regardless of the reasons for a conflict,” Clooney said in the statement.

The eight-person legal panel consisted of renowned legal experts, including Theodor Meron, former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Lord Justice Fulford, a former ICC judge. They “unanimously determined” that the court had jurisdiction over crimes committed in Palestinian territories and by Palestinian nationals, Clooney’s statement wrote.

The panel also was unanimous in concluding that “Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including hostage-taking, murder and crimes of sexual violence.”

Clooney’s statement added there was also “reasonable grounds to believe” Netanyahu and “Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including starvation as a method of warfare, murder, persecution and extermination.”

A panel of ICC judges will now consider Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

Both Hamas and Israeli politicians condemned the arrest warrants, with Netanyahu calling it a “travesty of justice” and an “outrageous decision” that “creates a twisted and false moral equivalence between the leaders of Israel and the henchmen of Hamas.”

The application for warrants marks the first time the ICC has targeted the top leader of a close ally of the United States. Israel and the US are not members of the ICC. However, the ICC claims to have jurisdiction over Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank after Palestinian leaders formally agreed to be bound by the court’s founding principles in 2015.

The Biden administration on Monday forcefully denounced the ICC’s move, with President Joe Biden saying in a statement: “Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas.”

Clooney, who is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, is married to the actor George Clooney. Alongside her husband, she co-founded the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which gives free legal support to victims of abuses of power, according to its website.

She has represented Yazidi victims of genocide “in the only three genocide cases against ISIS members in the world,” according to the website. She also was counsel to victims of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur and “helped to secure freedom for political prisoners around the world including journalists and opposition figures.”

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