Lebanon backtracks on ICC jurisdiction to probe alleged war crimes

Lebanon accuses Israel of repeatedly violating international law since October, allegedly claiming Israel killed 80 civilians; but concerned that probe would 'open the door for the court to investigate whatever it wanted across different files'

Lebanon has reversed a move to authorize the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes on its soil, prompting a prominent rights group to deplore what it called the loss of an "historic opportunity" for justice.
Lebanon has accused Israel of repeatedly violating international law since October when the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah began firing at Israel's north, and the IDF responded with strikes on Lebanese soil. According to Lebanon, Israel allegedly killed some 80 civilians.
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לחימה בגזרת הצפון
לחימה בגזרת הצפון
Smoke on the Israeli side of the border following Hezbollah rocket attack
(Photo: AFP)
Neither Lebanon nor Israel are members of the ICC, so a formal declaration to the court would be required from either to give it jurisdiction to launch probes into a particular period.
In April, Lebanon's caretaker cabinet voted to instruct the foreign ministry to file a declaration with the ICC authorizing it to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes on Lebanese territory since Oct. 7.
Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib never filed the requested declaration and on Tuesday the cabinet published an amended decision that omitted mention of the ICC, saying Lebanon would file complaints to the United Nations instead.
Lebanon has regularly lodged complaints with the U.N. Security Council about Israeli strikes over the past seven months, but they have yielded no binding U.N. decisions.
Habib did not respond to a Reuters question on why he did not file the requested declaration.
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נזקי התקיפה באל-עדיסה בדרום לבנון
נזקי התקיפה באל-עדיסה בדרום לבנון
Aftermath of an IDF strike in southern Lebanon
A Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the initial cabinet decision raised "confusion" over whether a declaration would "open the door for the court to investigate whatever it wanted across different files".
The official said the request to revisit the decision came from George Kallas, a cabinet minister close to parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Shi'ite Muslim Amal movement that is allied with the politically powerful Hezbollah.
Since October, Hezbollah and Amal have both fired rockets into Israel, killing 10 civilians, and displacing around 60,000 residents near the border.
Contacted by Reuters, Kallas confirmed he requested a review of cabinet's initial decision but denied it was out of fear Hezbollah or Amal could become subject to ICC arrest warrants.
Human Rights Watch condemned the cabinet's reversal.
"The Lebanese government had a historic opportunity to ensure there was justice and accountability for war crimes in Lebanon. It's shameful that they are forgoing this opportunity," said HRW's Lebanon researcher Ramzi Kaiss.
"Rescinding this decision shows that Lebanon's calls for accountability ring hollow," he told Reuters.
Information Minister Ziad Makary, the government spokesman, said that he had backed the initial decision and would "continue to explore other international tribunals to render justice" despite the reversal.
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