The ICC arrest warrants: Hypocrisy and a guilty conscience

Daniyal Kahlon & Tahmeed Ahmad, UK

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has highlighted the hypocrisy of the Western-led ‘rule-based order’. One such moment was when Karim Khan, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced that he was seeking an arrest warrant for the head of a state carrying out war crimes and illegal operations against another population.

The leader of this country is Benjamin Netanyahu, and the country is Israel. You might be forgiven for thinking of Russian President Putin and Russia, but that’s the irony.

When the same prosecutor, Karim Khan, sought arrest warrants for President Putin, based on war crimes, the Western world praised it as a heroic and just act.

“Well, I think it’s justified,” President Joe Biden said, referring to the warrant. “But the question is – it’s not recognised internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”

Representing the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, James Cleverly, the then Foreign Secretary tweeted:

“Those responsible for horrific war crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice. We welcome the step taken by the independent ICC to hold those at the top of the Russian regime, including Vladimir Putin, to account. Work must continue to investigate the atrocities committed.” (@JamesCleverly on X)

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, also backed the decision:

“Today’s announcement sends an important message: there will be no hiding place for Putin and his cronies and the world is determined to make them pay for what they have done,” he said, adding, “These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. One day Putin will face justice: until then, the focus of all who believe in Ukraine’s liberty and freedom must continue to be on ensuring her victory.” (@Keir_Starmer on X)

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said: “There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable.” (“Biden: ICC’s war crimes case against Putin is ‘justified’”,

Josep Borrell, the EU’s representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the warrants are “just the start of holding Russia accountable for crimes and atrocities in Ukraine.” (“Joe Biden says Vladimir Putin has ‘clearly committed war crimes’ and says ICC’s arrest warrant is ‘justified’”,

Admission of guilt 

How did Netanyahu and Israel react to the ICC seeking an arrest warrant for Putin? You’d expect them to side with their allies, the US and UK, and praise the ICC for issuing a warrant against Putin, but this isn’t what occurred. Bizarrely, Israel was uncomfortable with the investigation into Putin – not because of any ties of friendship between the nations – but because they felt that this would open the floodgates to arrest warrants being issued to other world leaders too.

You see, contrary to what Piers Morgan believes, it did not start on 7 October 2023. The ICC had announced on 3 March 2021, the opening of an investigation into potential crimes committed by Israel since 13 June 2014, covering Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. (“Israel/OPT: ICC applications for arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Sinwar and other senior Israeli and Hamas officials crucial step towards justice”,

Was the silence upon the ICC seeking an arrest warrant for Putin an admission of guilt? It’s hard to say, but Israeli newspaper Haaretz certainly entertained the idea that Netanyahu could be next.  The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an independent think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University in Israel, have taken it a step further. They practically admit to the crime and actively showcase intent to target the ICC.

“Beyond this, the increase of support for the ICC, which stems in part from the global groundswell of support for an investigation against Russia, could make it hard for Israel to recruit countries and other influential actors to exert pressure on the ICC Prosecutor to freeze the investigation regarding Israel.” (“Israel/OPT: ICC applications for arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Sinwar and other senior Israeli and Hamas officials crucial step towards justice”,

On the other hand, when Putin’s arrest warrant was issued, some Palestinians saw this as a positive step towards justice, hoping similar measures would apply to their own oppressors. In a way, this entire scenario was at play for the last 2-3 years; it was a foreseen event. (“On the ICC, Putin, Netanyahu and Prosecutorial Discretion”,

The hypocrisy 

At the time of Putin’s arrest warrant, world leaders seemed to be greatly in favour of the ICC’s authority and moral standing, considering the arrest warrant justified and binding. This would all have been fair and well if the leaders of these rule-based countries stuck to their principles in praising the ICC’s decisions.

However, on 20 May 2024, Karim Khan, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, applied for arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu, along with his Defense minister, and a leader of the Hamas military wing, after much deliberation, investigation and consideration, in the face of personal threats raised against him by US senators in a letter.

You’d expect world leaders, especially those from the US and UK, to show the same sentiment as to the arrest warrant of Putin, but the opposite occurred.

“Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas,” Biden said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We reject the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas,” stating that the United States rejects the ICC Prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants for Israeli officials and Hamas.

The spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This action is not helpful in relation to reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out or getting humanitarian aid in.”

“The UK, as with other countries, does not yet recognise Palestine as a state and Israel is not a state party to the Rome Statute,” which outlines the ICC’s areas of jurisdiction, the spokesperson said. (“Reactions to ICC prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants for Israeli, Hamas leaders”,

Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement was perhaps the most chilling of all: In a bitter personal attack, he called Karim Khan, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, one of the “great antisemites in modern times.” Mr Khan, he said, was like judges in Nazi Germany who denied Jews basic rights and enabled the Holocaust. His decision to seek arrest warrants against Israel’s prime minister and defence minister was “callously pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are raging around the world.” (“What the ICC arrest warrants mean for Israel and Hamas”,

All of a sudden, regard for international law and the ‘rule-based system’ went out of the window. Both leaders were investigated before the warrants were sought – so why are the reactions to these warrants so different?

The answer lies in the fundamental hypocrisy of the ‘rule-based order’ – where a handful of powerful and influential countries bend the rules to suit them, implementing them in their favour and discarding them when they’re not.

The latest US statements towards the International Criminal Court (ICC) expose an appalling level of hypocrisy in the ‘rule-based order.’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s support for sanctions against ICC officials, following their application for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, is a stark contrast to the US’s praise when the court targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin. This selective indignation, where justice is only pursued when convenient, undermines the very principles the US claims to uphold. It seems the ICC is laudable when prosecuting adversaries but intolerable when it turns its gaze on allies. Such blatant double standards are both shameful and transparent, revealing a manipulative approach to international law that prioritises politics over justice.

Islamic point of view 

This hypocrisy is something that an Islamic system, practically implemented, would not fall prey to. The Holy Quran states:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُوۡنُوۡا قَوّٰمِیۡنَ بِالۡقِسۡطِ شُہَدَآءَ لِلّٰہِ وَلَوۡ عَلٰۤی اَنۡفُسِکُمۡ اَوِ الۡوَالِدَیۡنِ وَالۡاَقۡرَبِیۡنَ ۚ اِنۡ یَّکُنۡ غَنِیًّا اَوۡ فَقِیۡرًا فَاللّٰہُ اَوۡلٰی بِہِمَا ۟ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الۡہَوٰۤی اَنۡ تَعۡدِلُوۡا ۚ وَاِنۡ تَلۡوٗۤا اَوۡ تُعۡرِضُوۡا فَاِنَّ اللّٰہَ کَانَ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ خَبِیۡرًا

“O ye who believe! be strict in observing justice, [and be] witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or [against] parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both [than you are]. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may [be able] to act equitably. And if you conceal [the truth] or evade [it], then [remember that] Allah is well aware of what you do.” (Surah an-Nisa’, Ch.4: V.136)

If all countries followed this beautiful teaching of the Holy Quran, there wouldn’t be any room for hypocrisy. Justice would prevail. 

Speaking of injustices being committed by Israel against the Palestinians, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa in his Friday Sermon on 8 December 2023: 

“I continually urge for prayers for the Palestinians; keep praying. As anticipated, following the end of the ceasefire, the Israeli government has intensified its bombings and attacks across every region of Gaza. Again, innocent children and civilians are being martyred.”

Regarding the growing injustice of the world powers, he continues: “The UN has tried to raise its voice, but who listens to them? They claim, ‘We will do this, we will do that,’ but they can’t do anything; no one heeds their words. The major powers just exercise their [veto] rights.

“May Allah have mercy on the Muslims. Nevertheless, along with prayers, as I have already communicated through the jamaats, we must continuously remind our acquaintances and local politicians to raise their voices to end this oppression. Similarly, we should spread this message in our circles that we must strive to end this injustice. May Allah protect the innocent from oppression [Amin].” (Al Hakam Online on X)

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