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Who is Amal Clooney, who played a key role in ICC warrants against Netanyahu, Hamas leaders?

Amal Clooney, a prominent international human rights lawyer, played a crucial role behind the ICC warrants against Israeli PM Netanyahu, his defence chief and Hamas leaders. She had earlier sparked criticism for not speaking publicly about the Israel-Hamas war.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee The Hague (Netherlands) Published on: May 22, 2024 12:04 IST
Amal Clooney, israel hamas
Image Source : AP Amal Clooney is a British lawyer specialising in international law and human rights.

The Hague: High-profile British international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney was one of the legal experts who recommended the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan to seek arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders. ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he had "reasonable grounds" to believe that Netanyahu, Gallant and Hamas leaders - Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh - "bear criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes.

Amal Clooney said she and other experts in international law unanimously agreed to recommend that International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan seek the warrants. She wrote of her participation in a letter posted on Monday on the website of the Clooney Foundation for Justice. "I served on this Panel because I believe in the rule of law and the need to protect civilian lives," she wrote.

"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. As a human rights lawyer, I will never accept that one child’s life has less value than another’s. I do not accept that any conflict should be beyond the reach of the law, nor that any perpetrator should be above the law. So I support the historic step that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has taken to bring justice to victims of atrocities in Israel and Palestine," she further wrote in the letter.

The panel comprised experts in international humanitarian law and international criminal law, and two of its members are former judges at criminal tribunals in The Hague, where the ICC is based, Amal Clooney wrote. The panel also published an op-ed about its recommendation in the Financial Times on Monday. 

Who is Amal Clooney?

Amal Clooney (nee Alamuddin) is a British-based lawyer who specialises in international law and human rights. The wife of American actor and filmmaker George Clooney, the 46-year-old lawyer represents clients before international courts, including the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. 

As a leading barrister in international human rights law, Amal Clooney is ranked in the legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners and is described as a 'first-class international lawyer, a 'natural lead advocate' and a 'rare combination of intellectual depth and pragmatism', according to the Columbia Law School. She represents victims of mass atrocities, including genocide and sexual violence, and has acted in landmark human rights cases, including the ISIS attacks and the Russia-Ukraine war.

India Tv - Amal Clooney

Image Source : AP (FILE)Amal Clooney is the wife of American actor George Clooney.

Amal Clooney is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School and a Senior Fellow at the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Prior to joining the London Bar, she completed a clerkship in The Hague at the International Court of Justice and worked as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. She is currently admitted to the New York Bar and practiced as a litigation attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP there.

She had earlier sparked criticism for not speaking publicly about the Israel-Hamas war, which has killed 35,000 people in Gaza. Khan, thanked Clooney in his statement announcing the move, describing her as part of “a panel of experts in international law” whom he had turned to for advice and to review the evidence in the case. Many of the named experts are British, according to the Guardian.

What did the ICC say about Israel and Hamas?

Monday's announcement marks the first time the ICC prosecutor sought to intervene in the escalating conflict in the Middle East, heightened by Israel's ongoing operations in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians have taken refuge from the war. Khan said, "Israel, like all States, has a right to take action to defend its population. That right, however, does not absolve Israel or any state of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law."

He also said crimes against humanity allegedly carried out by Israel were part of "a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy." His office collected evidence that showed Israel systematically depriving civilians of "objects indispensable to human survival" like food, water, medicine and energy, he said, adding that Netanyahu and Gallant bore responsibility for willfully causing great suffering and committing war crimes.

On the other hand, the Hamas leaders face allegations of bearing responsibility for crimes committed by Hamas including extermination and murder, the taking of hostages, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence. Khan said Hamas leaders gunned down several people at a dance party and killed entire families, adding that he himself witnessed "devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes".

"There is no doubt that the step taken today by the prosecutor is a milestone in the history of international criminal law. There is no conflict that should be excluded from the reach of the law; no child’s life valued less than another’s. The law we apply is humanity’s law, not the law of any given side. It must protect all the victims of this conflict; and all civilians in conflicts to come," wrote the panel including Clooney in the op-ed in Financial Times.

Can the ICC arrest someone?

Karim Khan's request will now go to a pre-trial chamber consisting of three judges. If the judges agree with Khan on "reasonable grounds" of alleged war crimes, they will issue an arrest warrant naming the person and the specific crimes for which the warrant has been sought. This process can take several months and the warrants can be amended later.

The founding Rome Statute of the ICC obliges all 124 signatory states to arrest and hand over any individual subject to an arrest warrant if they set foot on their territory. However, the court has no means to enforce an arrest, although member states ignoring the arrest calls can be sanctioned. However, an ICC warrant against Netanyahu is expected to dent his international standing and could strengthen legal challenges such as an arms embargo on Israel.

The ICC is the permanent court of last resort, established in 2002 to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression. Several countries don't accept the court's jurisdiction, including the United States, China and Russia.

(with inputs from agencies)

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