Mossad ex-chief gave death threats to ICC prosecutor's family to drop war crime probe against Israel: Report

Israel’s Prime Minister's office dismissed the allegations as “false and unfounded,” while Bensouda and Cohen did not comment.

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New Delhi: Yossi Cohen, the former head of Mossad, is reported to have personally threatened Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) former chief prosecutor, in a covert operation aimed at halting a war crimes investigation into Israeli actions in Palestinian territories, The Guardian quoted sources as saying.

Cohen's secret apprehensions

Cohen's secret interactions with Bensouda occurred in the years preceding her 2021 decision to launch a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank. These meetings were part of a larger Israeli effort to undermine the ICC's authority and prevent legal actions against its leaders and military personnel.

ICC investigation leads to arrest warrants

The investigation gained significant momentum recently when Bensouda's successor, Karim Khan, sought arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, alongside three Hamas leaders, citing their conduct in the Gaza conflict. This decision has long been a fear of Israel's political and military elite.

High-level authorization and persistent pressure

Cohen’s activities were authorized at high levels within the Israeli government, justified by the perceived threat of ICC prosecutions. A senior Israeli official confirmed that the Mossad aimed to either compromise Bensouda or coerce her into compliance with Israeli demands.

Cohen’s role as Netanyahu’s messenger

Acting as Netanyahu’s “unofficial messenger,” Cohen personally led Mossad’s nearly decade-long campaign against the ICC. Multiple sources revealed that Bensouda briefed senior ICC officials about Cohen's repeated attempts to influence her, which were seen as increasingly aggressive and threatening.

Allegations of threats and intimidation

According to reports, Cohen told Bensouda: “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.” Sources described his tactics as “despicable” and akin to “stalking,” as Mossad also targeted Bensouda's family, attempting to discredit her through covert recordings.

International backlash and diplomatic intrigue

The revelations are part of an extensive investigation by The Guardian, +972 Magazine, and Local Call, exposing how Israel’s intelligence agencies waged a covert “war” against the ICC. Israel’s Prime Minister's office dismissed the allegations as “false and unfounded,” while Bensouda and Cohen did not comment.

Kabila’s role in the plot

Surprisingly, Joseph Kabila, the former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, played a supportive role in Mossad's efforts. The exact nature of Kabila's involvement remains unclear, but sources indicate he assisted Cohen in his operations against Bensouda.

ICC’s Stance on threats and intimidation

Karim Khan, the current ICC chief prosecutor, has recently emphasized his commitment to prosecuting any attempts to impede or influence ICC officials. Legal experts suggest Mossad’s actions could constitute offences against the administration of justice under the Rome Statute.

Bensouda deterrent in her pursuit of justice

Despite the intense pressure, Bensouda proceeded with the investigation, marking a significant moment for the ICC as it issued arrest warrants against leaders of a nation allied with the US and Europe. This investigation aims to address allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and the West Bank, underscoring the court’s dedication to justice for all victims.