Trudeau Mum on International Criminal Court Prosecution Request as MPs React

Trudeau Mum on International Criminal Court Prosecution Request as MPs React
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan speaks at a press conference during his first official visit to Canada on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on May 5, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Spencer Colby)
The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not yet weighed in on a push from the International Criminal Court to prosecute his Israeli counterpart and others over the war in the Gaza Strip, but his deputy says it’s “inappropriate” to equate leaders of terrorist organizations with democratically elected ones.

The court’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants Monday for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defence minister and senior Hamas leaders.

The U.S. rejected the move to implicate Israel alongside Hamas, while France and Belgium supported the decision and Germany said it respects the court’s independence.

Mr. Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly have yet to comment.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was repeatedly asked for Canada’s position on the developments on May 21 at an unrelated press conference.

“It is entirely inappropriate to equate the terrorist leaders of a terrorist organization with the democratically elected leaders of a democracy,” she said.

But Ms. Freeland would not comment on whether or not Ottawa supports the request for warrants to be issued.

She characterized it as “preliminary” and “hypothetical.”

“You are asking a question concerning a potential, future thing; it’s a hypothetical question,” she said in French.

“Canada respects the court and its decisions.”

Her comments followed statements from several vocal Liberal MPs.

Iqra Khalid said Canada must respect the ICC and its independence.

Anthony Housefather argued the decision was drawing a moral equivalency between terrorist leaders and democratically elected politicians—language Ms. Freeland would later echo.

And their colleague Salma Zahid said Ottawa should support the ICC’s legal process, arguing its role is “not to judge moral equivalence, but to impartially consider the evidence.”

The Liberals and NDP passed a parliamentary motion in March that calls on Canada to “support the work of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a social-media post that Mr. Trudeau “must respect his promise to Canadians.”

Mr. Trudeau is slated to speak with media on May 21 afternoon in Philadelphia.