Skip to main content

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen 'stalked' ICC prosecutor over war crimes inquiry

Revelations form part of an investigation that purports to show how Israeli intelligence ran a covert 'war' against the ICC
Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Justice in Khartoum, Sudan on 2 Jun 2021 (AFP)

The head of Mossad threatened the International Criminal Court's (ICC) prosecutor over her decision to open a formal investigation into Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, a joint investigation by the Guardian and +972 mag has revealed. 

Yossi Cohen, who at the time was director of the Israeli spy agency, helmed an operation to pressure Fatou Bensouda into abandoning her inquiry.

In the years leading up to Bensouda's decision to open the inquiry in 2021, 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.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


According to a senior Israeli official, Cohen’s campaign was authorised at the highest level, as potential prosecutions by the court were perceived as a threat to military personnel.

Bensouda’s investigation concluded in last week’s announcement by the current chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, that he was seeking arrest warrants for senior Israeli leaders over war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

Khan warned subsequently that he would not hesitate to prosecute “attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence” ICC officials.

The revelations form part of an investigation by the Guardian, the +972 Magazine, and Local Call into a decade-long covert "war" waged by Israeli intelligence agencies against the ICC.

More details are to follow as a second report is expected on Tuesday.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.