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Middle East

Israel's nine-year campaign of spying, hacking, and intimidation against the ICC exposed

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  • Israel has been engaged in a covert campaign of spying, hacking, and intimidation against the ICC for nearly a decade.
  • The campaign aimed to derail ICC investigations into potential war crimes by Israeli and Hamas leaders.
  • The exposure of these actions raises significant concerns about the integrity and independence of international judicial processes.

An investigation by +972 Magazine, and Local Call has exposed a nearly decade-long covert campaign by Israel against the International Criminal Court (ICC). This campaign, described by Israeli officials as a 'war,' involved extensive spying, hacking, and intimidation tactics aimed at derailing ICC investigations into potential war crimes committed by Israeli and Hamas leaders.

The ICC's chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, recently announced his intention to seek arrest warrants against key figures from both Israel and Hamas. He issued a stern warning, stating, "I insist that all attempts to impede, intimidate, or improperly influence the officials of this court must cease immediately." Khan emphasized that such actions are criminal offenses under the ICC's founding treaty.

However, the investigation reveals that Israel's intelligence agencies, including the Shin Bet, military intelligence directorate Aman, and the cyber-intelligence division Unit 8200, have been actively surveilling and hacking ICC officials. This surveillance included intercepting communications of numerous ICC officials, including Khan and his predecessor, Fatou Bensouda. Bensouda, who initiated the ICC's investigation in 2021, was also reportedly spied on and threatened.

Former Israeli intelligence officials have described the ICC as a "mechanism with teeth" and a significant threat to Israeli leaders, who could face arrest warrants and prosecutions in The Hague. The covert operations against the ICC began in January 2015, following Palestine's accession to the ICC after being recognized as a state by the UN General Assembly. Israeli officials condemned this move as 'diplomatic terrorism' and a 'red line' with aggressive diplomatic implications.

The investigation uncovered that Israeli intelligence agencies captured phone calls, messages, and emails of ICC officials. Netanyahu, the then Prime Minister of Israel, took a personal interest in these intelligence operations and was described as being 'obsessed' with intercepts related to the case. The efforts to undermine the ICC's work were seen as a necessary 'war' to protect Israeli leaders from potential prosecutions.

This revelation raises significant concerns about the integrity and independence of international judicial processes. The ICC's mandate is to investigate and prosecute individuals for the gravest offenses, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Any attempts to interfere with its work undermine the rule of law and the pursuit of justice on a global scale.

The exposure of Israel's covert campaign against the ICC highlights the lengths to which some states may go to protect their leaders from international accountability. It also underscores the challenges faced by international institutions in carrying out their mandates in the face of state-level opposition and interference.

As the ICC continues its investigations, the international community will be watching closely to see how these revelations impact the court's work and the broader quest for justice and accountability.

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