Canada ‘very closely’ monitoring ICC, Gaza war crimes: Joly

OTTAWA –

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada is “very closely” following a push from the International Criminal Court to prosecute the Israeli prime minister and Hamas leaders over the war in the Gaza Strip.

The court’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants Monday for Benjamin Netanyahu, his defence minister and senior Hamas leaders.

Ottawa has so far avoided supporting or denouncing the idea of charges, and ministers are only weighing in a day after peer countries took clearer stances.

On Monday, the U.S. rejected the move to implicate Israel alongside Hamas, while France and Belgium supported the decision and Germany said it respects the court’s independence.

Joly says no equivalence can be drawn between Israel and Hamas, but she also says the court decided upon different charges against the leaders from each side of the conflict.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to make a statement, though a handful of vocal Liberal MPs are taking more defined stances.

“We respect the independence of the ICC. All parties must make sure that they abide by international law, including international humanitarian law. We’ve been calling all parties to do so for months now, and so therefore we are closely monitoring the process,” Joly told reporters Tuesday afternoon on Parliament Hill.

“Of course there’s no equivalency because one organization’s a terrorist organization; the other one is a state. That being said, (the) charges that have been laid are different.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was repeatedly asked for Canada’s position on the developments earlier Tuesday at an unrelated press conference. 

“It is entirely inappropriate to equate the terrorist leaders of a terrorist organization with the democratically elected leaders of a democracy,” she said.

But Freeland would not comment on whether or not Ottawa supports the request for warrants to be issued, characterizing that as “preliminary” and “hypothetical.” 

Iqra Khalid said in a post on X that Canada must respect the ICC and its independence.

Anthony Housefather argued the decision was drawing a moral equivalency between terrorist leaders and democratically elected politicians — language Freeland would later echo.

Their colleague Salma Zahid said Ottawa should support the ICC’s legal process, arguing its role is “not to judge moral equivalence, but to impartially consider the evidence.”

Another Liberal MP, Sameer Zuberi, added in his own social-media post that Canada must await the result of the request, while noting that “no party to an armed conflict is above the law.”

The Liberals and NDP passed a parliamentary motion in March that called on Canada to “support the work of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.” 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a social-media post that Trudeau “must respect his promise to Canadians.”

Trudeau is slated to speak with media Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024

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