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Canada blows hot and cold over possible arrest warrant against Netanyahu

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Chrystia Freeland refused to reveal what Canada's position would be if the International Criminal Court agreed to issue an arrest warrant against the Israeli head of state.

Liberal ministers Mélanie Joly and Chrystia Freeland were not completely on the same wavelength on Tuesday in their assessment of the request for an international arrest warrant targeting the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“For Canada, it is not correct to make an equivalence between the leaders of a terrorist organization and the elected leaders of a democracy,” said the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, during a press conference.

As in response, the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, partly contradicted it in front of journalists in the afternoon even. “Of course there is no equivalence,” she agreed. But at the same time, the [charges] that have been filed are different against both parties. »

The two senior ministers of the Trudeau government, however, united in their refusal to reveal what Canada's position would be in the event that the International Criminal Court (ICC) agrees to issue an arrest warrant against the Israeli head of state. They did not want to say whether the country would then be ready to handcuff Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The question is hypothetical,” Ms. Joly repeated. What I'm telling you is that we are going to respect the process, of course, the process that is underway before the International Criminal Court. We will respect it. »

At the end of the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said that he found it “really problematic that there is a suggestion of equivalence” between leaders of Israel and Hamas.

Canada blows hot and cold over possible arrest warrant against Netanyahu

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly spoke to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons before question period on Tuesday in Ottawa.

United States and France at odds

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on Sunday targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant by requesting international arrest warrants. They are suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as deliberately starving civilians.

Hamas leaders are also targeted by such a request, who is accused in particular of sexual violence and the taking of hostages during a major surprise attack on Israel on October 7. Three judges are expected to decide in the coming weeks whether the ICC should issue such warrants.

Attorney Khan's announcement sparked very different reactions from Canada's closest allies. The United States saw an “equivalence” between the actions of Israel and those of Hamas. President Joe Biden called the request for an arrest warrant “scandalous.”

On the contrary, France announced that it “supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and the fight against impunity in all situations”. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for his part, said the request was “deeply inappropriate” as we seek a peaceful resolution.

Unlike the United States or Israel, Canada is a member country of the ICC, as are France, the United Kingdom and 121 other countries.

Political question

“This question of “equivalence” [between Israel and Hamas criticized by the ICC prosecutor] is political. It has no legal basis,” analyzes Fannie Lafontaine, holder of the Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Fundamental Rights at Laval University.

“It doesn't matter if Hamas commits crimes, that doesn't justify Israel's crimes,” said the law professor. She is of the opinion that the criticism of the choices or the strategy of the ICC prosecutor, less “categorical” from Ms. Joly than from Ms. Freeland, “is exactly contrary to the spirit of international judicial independence”.

“Then, in the context of Gaza, in my opinion, the prosecutor would never have ventured to request arrest warrants, and especially to do so publicly, if it was not supported by very solid evidence,” concludes Fannie Lafontaine.

On Tuesday, the Center for Israel and Jewish Relations (CIJA) urged the Canadian government to reject out of hand “the ICC’s assault on Israel.” “This amounts to indicting Churchill and Hitler for their role in World War II and equating their responsibility for civilian casualties in that war,” reads a statement.

The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, believes that Canada's speech is motivated by diplomatic reasons. He says he is close to the United Kingdom's position on this subject. In the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh would have liked Canada to make it clear that it will respect the ICC's decision, whatever it may be.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has the mandate to try individuals responsible for the most serious international crimes. At the same time, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a body where states can sue each other, is hearing a case led by South Africa, which accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people.

Chrystia Freeland led Canadian diplomacy between 2017 and 2019 before being appointed to Finance, but she continues to play a leading role internationally within the Trudeau government, as in matters of relations with the United States or in the matter of the war in Ukraine.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116