Home » Mossad Chief Allegedly Pressured ICC Prosecutor Over War Crimes Investigation

Mossad Chief Allegedly Pressured ICC Prosecutor Over War Crimes Investigation

by Mohammed Ahmed
Mossad Chief Allegedly Pressured ICC Prosecutor Over War Crimes Investigation

The former head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, allegedly threatened the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a bid to pressure her into abandoning a war crimes investigation. This revelation comes amid heightened scrutiny over Israel’s actions in occupied Palestinian territories.

In a series of secret meetings, Cohen reportedly pressured Bensouda not to proceed with a criminal investigation. These covert contacts took place over several years leading up to Bensouda’s decision in 2021 to formally investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestinian territories.

The investigation reached a critical point last week when Bensouda’s successor, Karim Khan, announced an application for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The request also included three Hamas leaders, marking a significant development feared by Israel’s political and military establishment.

Cohen’s involvement in the operation against the ICC occurred during his tenure as Mossad director, a role he assumed in 2016 under the appointment of Netanyahu. Cohen’s activities were sanctioned at high levels within Israel, justified by the perceived threat of prosecutions against Israeli military personnel.

Sources familiar with the operation indicated that the Mossad’s objective was to compromise Bensouda or secure her cooperation with Israeli demands. Cohen, acting as Netanyahu’s unofficial messenger, led the Mossad’s decade-long campaign to undermine the ICC. This operation included attempts to intimidate Bensouda by threatening her security and that of her family, as well as efforts to discredit her through recordings of her husband.

Bensouda briefed a small group of senior ICC officials about Cohen’s attempts to influence her, describing his tactics as increasingly persistent and threatening. Despite these efforts, Bensouda announced in December 2019 that she had grounds to open a full criminal investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. She requested a ruling from the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to confirm the court’s jurisdiction over Palestine before proceeding.

Following the ICC’s confirmation of jurisdiction in February 2021, Bensouda officially opened the investigation. She completed her term shortly after, leaving the case to her successor, Karim Khan. The investigation gained renewed urgency after the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 and the ensuing war on Gaza, leading to Khan’s recent request for arrest warrants.

The Mossad’s efforts to influence Bensouda also received unexpected support from Joseph Kabila, the former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila played a supporting role in the plot, facilitating Cohen’s covert operations against the ICC.

Legal experts and former ICC officials suggest that Mossad’s attempts to threaten or pressure Bensouda could constitute offenses against the administration of justice under the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. Khan has warned that he will not hesitate to prosecute any attempts to impede or intimidate ICC officials.

The revelations about Cohen’s operation form part of a broader investigation by multiple media outlets, uncovering how Israeli intelligence agencies conducted a covert campaign against the ICC for almost a decade.

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