Lebanon Backtracks on ICC Jurisdiction to Probe Alleged War Crimes

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above south Lebanon following an Israeli strike amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, as seen from Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Ayal Margolin
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above south Lebanon following an Israeli strike amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, as seen from Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Ayal Margolin
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Lebanon Backtracks on ICC Jurisdiction to Probe Alleged War Crimes

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above south Lebanon following an Israeli strike amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, as seen from Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Ayal Margolin
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises above south Lebanon following an Israeli strike amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, as seen from Israel's border with Lebanon in northern Israel, May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Ayal Margolin

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 Israeli military and Lebanese armed group Hezbollah began trading fire in parallel with the Gaza war. Israeli shelling has since killed around 80 civilians in Lebanon, including children, medics and reporters, said Reuters.
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 UN Security Council about Israeli bombardments over the past seven months, but they have yielded no binding UN decisions.
Habib did not respond to a Reuters question on why he did not file the requested declaration.
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 Amal movement that is allied with the politically powerful Hezbollah.
Since October, Hezbollah and Amal have both fired rockets into Israel, killing 10 civilians, according to the Israeli army, and displacing around 60,000 residents near the border.
Contacted by Reuters, Kallas confirmed he requested a review of the 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.
Lebanon backtracked a few days after the ICC requested arrest warrants over alleged war crimes for Israel's prime minister and defense minister and three Hamas leaders.
The initial push to file an ICC declaration came from MP Halima Kaakour, who holds a PhD in public international law. She recommended the measure to parliament's justice committee, which unanimously endorsed it. Cabinet approved it in late April.
"The political parties that backed this initiative at first seem to have changed their mind. But they never explained the reason to us or the Lebanese people," Kaakour told Reuters.
"Lebanon's complaints to the UN Security Council don't get anywhere. We had an opportunity to give the ICC a period of time to look at it, we have the documentation - if we can use these international mechanisms, why not?"



US Military Targets Houthi Radar Sites in Yemen

In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP)
In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP)
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US Military Targets Houthi Radar Sites in Yemen

In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP)
In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP)

The United States military unleashed a wave of attacks targeting radar sites operated by Yemen's Houthi militants over their assaults on shipping in the crucial Red Sea corridor, authorities said Saturday, after one merchant sailor went missing following an earlier Houthi strike on a ship.
The attacks come as the US Navy faces the most intense combat it has seen since World War II in trying to counter the Houthi campaign — attacks the militants say are meant to halt the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
However, the Iranian-backed group assaults often see the Houthis target ships and sailors who have nothing to do with the war while traffic remains halved through a corridor vital for cargo and energy shipments between Asia, Europe and the Mideast.
US strikes destroyed seven radars within Houthi-controlled territory, the military's Central Command said. It did not elaborate on how the sites were destroyed and did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press.
“These radars allow the Houthis to target maritime vessels and endanger commercial shipping,” Central Command said in a statement.
The US separately destroyed two bomb-laden drone boats in the Red Sea, as well as a drone launched by the Houthis over the waterway, it said.
The Houthis, who have held Yemen's capital, Sanaa, since 2014, did not acknowledge the strikes, nor any military losses. That's been typical since the US began launching airstrikes targeting the group.
Meanwhile, Central Command said one commercial sailor from the Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned bulk cargo carrier Tutor remained missing after an attack Wednesday by the Houthis that used a bomb-carrying drone boat to strike the vessel.
“The crew abandoned ship and were rescued by USS Philippine Sea and partner forces,” Central Command said. The “Tutor remains in the Red Sea and is slowly taking on water.”
The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration.
The war in the Gaza Strip has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians there, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.
“The Houthis claim to be acting on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza and yet they are targeting and threatening the lives of third-country nationals who have nothing to do with the conflict in Gaza,” Central Command said. “The ongoing threat to international commerce caused by the Houthis in fact makes it harder to deliver badly needed assistance to the people of Yemen as well as Gaza.”