Mossad stalked and intimidated ICC prosecutor in effort to avoid Israel war crime charges

Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court and her family were stalked, surveiled and intimidated by Mossad agents, a recent investigation shows.

In the years leading up to Bensouda's decision to open the inquiry in 2021, [Yossi] Cohen allegedly deployed "despicable tactics", according to accounts by ICC officials who likened his behaviour to "stalking".

According to one account, 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."

Mossad also closely observed Bensouda's family, obtaining transcripts of secret recordings of her husband in a bid to use them to discredit her, two sources allege.

Middle East Eye

That's a pretty threatening non-threat if I ever heard one. This is the kind of thing you tell someone when you're looking for a synonym for "nice family you got there, be a shame if something were to happen to them".

The revelations about Cohen's operation form part of a forthcoming investigation by the Guardian, the Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 Magazine and the Hebrew-language outlet Local Call, revealing how multiple Israel intelligence agencies ran a covert "war" against the ICC for almost a decade.

[…]The ICC case, however, dates back to 2015, when Bensouda decided to open a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. Short of a full investigation, her inquiry was tasked with making an initial assessment of allegations of crimes by individuals in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

[…]Soon after commencing the preliminary examination, Bensouda and her senior prosecutors began to receive warnings that Israeli intelligence was taking a close interest in their work.

Mossad's taking interest in the Bensouda's work sounds a lot like U-North taking interest in Michael Clayton's whereabouts.

[…]Cohen repeatedly phoned the chief prosecutor and sought meetings with her, three sources recalled. According to two people familiar with the situation, at one stage Bensouda asked Cohen how he had obtained her phone number, to which he replied: "Did you forget what I do for a living?"

Initially, the sources explained, the intelligence chief "tried to build a relationship" with the prosecutor and played "good cop" in an attempt to charm her. The initial objective, they said, appeared to have been to enlist Bensouda into cooperating with Israel.

Over time, however, the tone of Cohen's contact changed and he began to use a range of tactics, including "threats and manipulation", an individual briefed on the meetings said. This prompted Bensouda to inform a small group of senior ICC officials about his behaviour.

Mossad's attempt to sway and then intimidate Bensouda away from prosecuting Israel for war crimes was unsuccessful, it seems.

"In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides," she said at the time.

Bensouda completed her nine-year term at the ICC three months later, leaving it to her successor, Khan, to take up the investigation. It was only after the Hamas attacks on Israel on 7 October and the ensuing war on Gaza that the ICC's investigation gained renewed urgency, culminating in last week's request for arrest warrants.

It was the conclusion Israel's political, military and intelligence establishment had feared. "The fact they chose the head of Mossad to be the prime minister's unofficial messenger to [Bensouda] was to intimidate, by definition," said a source briefed on Cohen's operation. "It failed."

Harry Davies, The Guardian