Former Mossad Chief Allegedly Threatened ICC Prosecutor to Halt War Crimes Probe

Published on: May 28, 2024 21:16 IST

Yossi Cohen, the former chief of Israel’s Mossad foreign intelligence agency, threatened the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a series of secret meetings, according to an investigation by The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday. This report aligns with other claims that Israel and its primary Western allies have exerted pressure on international justice bodies.

Cohen’s covert interactions aimed at intimidating Bensouda occurred in the years leading up to her decision to initiate a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied Palestinian territories, the report indicated, citing numerous anonymous sources.

Last week, Bensouda’s successor, Karim Khan, applied for an arrest warrant for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, based on the 2021 probe. Khan announced that his office had “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant bear “criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

An individual briefed on Cohen’s activities stated that he used “despicable tactics” against Bensouda as part of an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to intimidate and influence her. According to accounts shared with ICC officials, Cohen is alleged to have told her: “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.”

In addition to Netanyahu and Gallant, Khan also applied for arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders – Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri (also known as Deif), and Ismail Haniyeh – for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel, which does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and is not a member of the court, has also faced accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest United Nations court based in The Hague.

Experts believe that ICC indictments further undermine the legitimacy of Israel’s actions in Gaza and complicate its relationship with European allies who are members of the Rome Statute. However, the United States, Israel’s key ally, is believed to be shielding the Israeli government from the consequences of its international law violations.

US President Joe Biden called Khan’s move against the Israeli officials “outrageous,” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that the White House might work with Congress on legislation to penalize the international tribunal. Several US lawmakers have also urged Washington to impose sanctions against the ICC following the court’s request for the arrest warrants.

Palestinians fear that Israel and the US will pressure ICC judges into rejecting Khan’s requests.

Related Post