DANIEL HANNAN: Human rights lawyers demanding the arrest of Israel's elected leader? This is nothing short of tyranny

Just who the hell do they think they are? By what right does a group of human rights lawyers demand the arrest of an elected prime minister?

In issuing warrants for Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has crossed a line.

Yes, the ICC also issued warrants for various Hamas leaders, but these men were already hunted terrorists. An ICC warrant will make little difference to them.

Israel, by contrast, is a sovereign democracy. A flawed one, to be sure, but nonetheless a functioning state with independent institutions and a robust judiciary. In presuming to leapfrog Israel's own legal system, the ICC is engaging in calculated lawfare.

We must distinguish general principles from particular cases. I am open to a wide range of views about Israel. You can take the view that it is a beleaguered democracy defending itself against genocidal maniacs, or you can take the view that it is an illegitimate occupier carrying out atrocities. My own view is that Israel is broadly a force for good, but that Netanyahu has become a menace to civilisation.

Wherever you come down, though, you are expressing a political rather than a legal opinion. And that does not somehow cease to be true simply because you have a law degree.

In issuing a warrant for Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, the ICC has crossed a line, writes Daniel Hannan

In issuing a warrant for Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, the ICC has crossed a line, writes Daniel Hannan

Outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands

Outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands

In formulating his position, the ICC's chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, appointed a panel of six experts. While they have impressive legal experience, they also have their prejudices and assumptions, just like the rest of us.

One of them, the American-Israeli judge Theodor Meron, has argued consistently that there should be no Israeli presence in the territories conquered during the 1967 war.

Another, Danny Friedman KC, published an open letter on November 18 arguing that 'Israel's response to the attack on its territory has involved catastrophic mass fatality and untold human suffering of Palestinians', and that 'these are also grave war crimes'.

Now you can agree or disagree. Fine. But let's not pretend that either man is coming disinterestedly to the subject. Both have form on the subject. Indeed, human rights lawyers as a group tend to be well to the Left of the general population. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But we'd be kidding ourselves if we believed them to be unemotional androids.

Consider a third panellist, the Labour peer Helena Kennedy, KC. Now I happen to admire Baroness Kennedy immensely. She is clever, witty and eloquent, and has an unfeigned zeal for raising up the poor and disadvantaged. You can't spend five minutes in her company without liking her. But she is just as much a party politician as I am.

The difference is that, while you will find plenty of human rights lawyers who share her Labour views, you will find almost none who support the Tories, like me. Hence the suspicion that human rights law, at both national and supranational level, is being used to advance an agenda that would be rejected at the ballot box.

It is stunning to see how far and how fast we have moved. Twenty-five years ago, the human rights industry did not exist, and neither did the ICC. A multi-million-pound sector has grown up in an astonishingly short time, driven partly by the intimidating moral fervour of its practitioners and partly by grubbier calculations involving mortgages and school fees.

International law used to have a narrow scope, covering the immunity of ambassadors and the rules of engagement on the high seas. When the first Geneva Convention was signed in 1864, establishing the Red Cross, it was a voluntary intergovernmental accord. The idea that it might have direct force within its signatory states would have been met by bewilderment.

Even the 1945 Nuremberg trials, often cited by advocates of international law as an example of how the international community must sometimes step in to deal with the breakdown of legal norms in a nation, were nothing of the kind.

The Allies were clear that they were exercising their power as the legal occupiers of Germany, and thus its acting government. They turned down a German request for judges from neutral countries for precisely this reason.

No, the sight of supranational tribunals sitting in judgment over elected governments is a new one. What was until a generation ago the stuff of conspiracy theories – shadowy cliques imposing their values on reluctant voters – is now happening. Except that there is nothing shadowy or conspiratorial about it. Those involved could hardly be more proud of themselves.

It is important to understand that when a country accepts a new human rights code or convention, it is not 'giving' people extra rights. It is simply empanelling a different set of officials to arbitrate those rights.

Those officials, whether national, European or international lawyers, would no doubt protest furiously that they are impartial, that they leave their personal opinions at the courtroom door. But notice how their rulings always seem to come from the same direction.

For example, we have come to expect courts to strike down both individual deportation orders and broader attempts to crack down on clandestine entry. But when did you ever hear of a judge stepping in to order an illegal immigrant to be removed?

Courts have regularly imposed maximum sentences for certain crimes but, to my knowledge, never a minimum sentence. If judges are as concerned about the rights of victims as they are about the rights of scoundrels, they keep very quiet about it.

It is hardly surprising, then, that Labour should be keener on these various codes than the Tories. The Shadow Foreign Secretary, in welcoming the ICC ruling, adopted a deliberately partisan tone, condemning the Conservatives for refusing to go along with it. We can expect much more of this if Sir Keir Starmer, a product and exemplar of the human rights industry, becomes PM.

Keir Starmer and Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy - who welcomed the ICC ruling - outside Berlin's Reichstag

Keir Starmer and Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy - who welcomed the ICC ruling - outside Berlin's Reichstag

Again, the lawyers involved will insist that they are simply interpreting conventions and commitments freely entered into by governments. And, in most cases, they will believe it. But it strikes me as incontestable that they are now making rulings that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

The case against Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament, for example, would until very recently have been deemed inadmissible, on grounds that, as the 1689 Bill of Rights puts it with admirable clarity, 'proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court'.

Likewise the idea that courts should rule on a bilateral treaty between two states, such as the deportation agreement between Rwanda and the UK.

Likewise, come to that, the extraordinary notion that the climate change policy of the Swiss government, partly determined by Swiss voters in referendums, might be struck down by European human rights lawyers.

To repeat, you can agree or disagree with any of these decisions. But they are all fundamentally political. If the judges involved wanted to change policy, they should have stepped down, contested an election and introduced appropriate legislation as a politician.

This latest move by the ICC shows that, 22 years after its establishment, it too now sees itself as a geopolitical player, ready to legislate from the bench. And that is the most alarming thing of all. If a court with a mission is a menace, an international court with a mission is a tyranny.

OTHER NEWS

7 minutes ago

Golden State Warriors GM opens up about potential Klay Thompson departure; fails to commit to star

7 minutes ago

Damaged Larry O'Brien Trophy Photo Turning Heads Just Days After Celtics Win NBA Finals

7 minutes ago

Real pay for UK workers has grown £16 a week since 2010, says think tank

7 minutes ago

Joshua Zirkzee pursuit casts new light on Erik ten Hag's Man Utd power struggle

7 minutes ago

X Factor's Lucy Spraggan stuns in first images from her star-studded wedding with girlfriend Emilia Smith

7 minutes ago

Top Cat Hawkins hit for six by foot injury

14 minutes ago

Video: Broadmeadows, Melbourne: Abdul El Sayed among four dead in suspected mass overdose

14 minutes ago

Declan Rice offers surprising response to James McClean after England star was described as 'overrated'... as he points out reason why the Ireland international might be 'bitter'

14 minutes ago

Kylian Mbappe is struggling with his new face mask reveals France boss Didier Deschamps but insists the superstar is 'raring to go' after breaking his nose

14 minutes ago

Why David Warner's last game for Australia was the WORST possible way for the controversial batter to finish his international career

15 minutes ago

Ice Cream Recall Map Shows 25 States Impacted by Health Warning

15 minutes ago

Israel’s Supreme Court rules military must draft ultra-Orthodox, a ruling that could split Netanyahu’s coalition

15 minutes ago

Israeli supreme court says ultra-Orthodox must serve in military

15 minutes ago

England v Slovenia TV channel, start time and how to watch Euro 2024 fixture online tonight

15 minutes ago

Best early Amazon Prime Day portable air conditioner deals in 2024

15 minutes ago

K-pop star Hyuna posts photo of weight gain on Instagram

15 minutes ago

Jeremy Renner Admits He Doesn't 'Have The Energy' to Take on 'Challenging' Roles After His Snowplow Accident

15 minutes ago

Mpox in SA: 20 suspected cases reported in Gauteng

15 minutes ago

Ex-Trump doctor Ronny Jackson may have broken federal law by spending campaign cash on a dining club

15 minutes ago

Matthew Tkachuk celebrates winning Stanley Cup with dad Keith and brother Brady

15 minutes ago

TWFG Insurance reveals nearly 27% jump in net profit in US IPO filing

15 minutes ago

Saudi Arabia launches geographical survey project for renewable energy sites

15 minutes ago

Woman Moves Into $2K Texas Apartment, Discovers It Comes With a 'Squatter'

15 minutes ago

Damning report into 2021 Callide C power station explosion finds CS Energy failed to implement 'effective safety practices'

15 minutes ago

‘Outlandish, outrageous’ demands divide GNU

15 minutes ago

Rodon & 26m star join: What Coopers dream Leicester lineup could be

15 minutes ago

‘You do not have a plan’: Anthony Albanese savages Coalition’s nuclear policy

15 minutes ago

Newcastle make enquiry to sign "monster" Almiron upgrade

15 minutes ago

ITV Coronation Street spoilers: New Lauren lead, hospital dash and DNA twist

15 minutes ago

Tottenham prepare swap deal for "outstanding" 25k-p/w midfielder - report

15 minutes ago

Minnesota Dam Breached in Devastating Midwest Flooding

15 minutes ago

Donald Trump’s Net Worth Jumps About $900 Million As Trump Media Shares Surge 27%

17 minutes ago

Plane believed to be carrying Assange lands in Thailand

20 minutes ago

Britney Spears no longer represented by attorney who ended 13 year conservatorship

20 minutes ago

Kate Martin Drops Blunt Take On Unfair Caitlin Clark Expectations

20 minutes ago

What Is The Maximum Length A Par 3 Can Be In Golf?

20 minutes ago

"JULIAN ASSANGE IS FREE", Wikileaks founder leaves UK

20 minutes ago

Om Birla files nomination for Speaker's post, INDIA bloc fields K Suresh

20 minutes ago

Euro 2024: Cesc Fabregas compares England star to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

20 minutes ago

Mamata expresses 'strong reservation' in letter to PM Modi over Teesta talks with Bangladesh