Peter Dutton
Peter Dutton says the ICC should be pressured to reverse the "terrible decision". Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Dutton threatens to pull Australia from criminal court

Dominic Giannini May 22, 2024

Peter Dutton has flagged a coalition government could withdraw Australia from the world’s top criminal court over its stance on alleged Israeli war crimes.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has sought arrest warrants for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

There were reasonable grounds to suspect their involvement in possible war crimes, including starvation of civilians and intentionally directing attacks against civilians, he said.

Warrants have also been sought for three Hamas commanders over suspected crimes against humanity including murder, sexual violence and hostage-taking.

Benjamin Netanyahu
 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being pursued over alleged war crimes. Image by Dan Peled/AAP PHOTOS 

Mr Dutton says the Albanese government should pressure the court “to make sure that they reverse this terrible decision”.

The opposition leader says a coalition government could cut ties with the court if it failed to bow to pressure.

“I don’t rule it out,” he said on Wednesday.

“But I think the pressure at the moment needs to be for like-minded countries that share our values, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder … to make sure that this anti-Semitic stance that they’ve taken does not advance.”

Only a handful of state parties have withdrawn from the court and two of those countries rescinded their withdrawal before it came into effect.

US President Joe Biden branded the warrant application “outrageous” and some European nations denounced the move and questioned the decision to apply for the warrants simultaneously.

But the French government defended the court’s independence and Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said crimes committed in Gaza “must be prosecuted at the highest level”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter before the court as the Department of Foreign Affairs defended the court’s independence.

A department spokesperson said: “Australia respects the ICC and the important role it has in upholding international law”.

The spokesperson rejected any equivalence between Israel and Hamas, which is a designated terrorist organisation in Australia.

They unequivocally condemned Hamas’ actions as they called for the release of hostages and a humanitarian ceasefire.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham accused the prime minister of “wilful inconsistency”.

He pointed to Mr Albanese commenting on the case of Julian Assange before a British court while declining to offer a position on the International Criminal Court during the same press conference.

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1200 people and taking more than 200 hostages, according to Israel.

Israel’s counter-offence in Gaza has since killed 35,000 people and injured about 77,000, the local health ministry has tallied.

An Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in early April.
 An Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in early April including Australian Zomi Frankcom. Image by AP PHOTO 

The Australian government has welcomed “positive engagements” with Israel over an investigation into the killing of aid worker Zomi Frankcom.

Retired air chief marshal Mark Binskin travelled to Israel in early May after being appointed as Australia’s special advisor on Tel Aviv’s investigation into the death of Ms Frankcom and six World Central Kitchen colleagues.

An Israeli airstrike killed the aid workers in early-April in what the Israel Defence Force called a false identification in the fog of war.

“The Australian government welcomes Israel’s positive engagement with ACM Binskin to date,” a Foreign Affairs Department spokesperson told AAP in a statement.

“The government has made clear to Israel its expectation of a full, thorough and transparent investigation, and demanded full accountability.”