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20 May, 2024 21:21

US Congress threatens ICC with sanctions

Washington has condemned international court’s application for warrants targeting both Israel and Hamas
US Congress threatens ICC with sanctions

House Republicans are reportedly working on a bill to sanction the International Criminal Court, after its top prosecutor sought the arrest of both Israeli and Hamas leaders in connection with the Gaza conflict.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh  and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri – of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza and Israel.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, called the ICC move “disgraceful” and “lawless.”

“If unchallenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats, and American military personnel,” Johnson said on Monday, demanding the White House “use every available tool to prevent such an abomination.”

Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Axios on Monday that a bill to sanction the court is already being drafted, based on the February 2023 bill introduced by Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican.

Cotton was among the dozen senators who wrote to Khan earlier this month, reminding the ICC prosecutor that the US has a law on the books allowing “all means necessary and appropriate” to defend any Americans – or allies – sought by the court. The 2002 law was nicknamed the “Hague Invasion Act.” 

While some congressional Democrats have urged a hard line on the ICC, two members of the Progressive Caucus – Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan – have argued it was not up to Congress to dictate to an independent court. 

According to Axios, Netanyahu has urged US President Joe Biden to “intervene” to prevent the ICC from approving Khan’s warrant request. 

Biden has already denounced Khan’s motion to seek the warrants as “outrageous” and protested that it created “equivalence” between Israel and Hamas. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the ICC “has no jurisdiction over this matter” and questioned “the legitimacy and credibility of this investigation.”

Although the US was one of the creators of the ICC, modeled after the Washington-backed war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Congress never ratified the Rome Statute. The court has jurisdiction over the West Bank and Gaza, because the Palestinian Authority accepted it in 2015.

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