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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

US senators warn ICC prosecutor of potential consequences for pursuing arrest warrant against Netanyahu

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A dozen Republican senators have sent a letter to International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan, warning him not to issue international arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, and threatening him with “severe sanctions” if he does so.

“Target Israel and we will target you,” the senators, led by Tom Cotton, warned in the one-page letter. “Such actions are illegitimate and lack legal basis, and, if carried out, will result in severe sanctions against you and your institution.”


The letter, dated 24 April and reported exclusively by Zeteo on Monday, said any attempt by the ICC to hold Mr Netanyahu and his colleagues to account for their actions in Gaza will be interpreted “not only as a threat to Israel’s sovereignty but to the sovereignty of the United States.”

A statement from the ICC Prosecutor’s Office issued Friday noted that there was “significant public interest” surrounding present cases and encouraged dialogue, but warned against individuals threatening to retaliate against any actions of the court, which is prohibited under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.

The US is not a party to the Rome Statute and does not recognise ICC jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories, which the court asserts it has.


The letter also highlighted the American Service-Members’ Protection Act, which prohibits federal, state, and local governments from assisting the ICC and authorises the US President “to use all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release” of any “US person” or ally detained by the ICC.

Neither Israel nor the US is a member of the ICC, though the Palestinian territories were given member status in 2015.

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The Biden administration has stated it does not support an ICC war crimes investigation into Israel but it has not commented on whether it would pursue sanctions against the court if Mr Netanyahu or others are ordered arrested.

“We’ve been really clear about the ICC investigation. We do not support it. We don’t believe that they have the jurisdiction. And I’m just going to leave it there for now,” the Hill reported White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to have said last week.

In 2023, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials for war crimes committed in the invasion of Ukraine. At the time, the Biden administration pledged to help the ICC in its efforts.

READ ALSO:Israel begins Rafah evacuation ahead of planned military operation

The ICC can prosecute individuals for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Currently, Israel is facing genocide accusations brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has imposed provisional measures in Israel’s Gaza offensive.

Since 7 October, Israeli forces have killed more than 34,600 people in Gaza—a death toll that could surge if Israel moves ahead with its planned ground invasion of Rafah. Women and children account for up to 70 per cent of those killed by Israel’s military thus far.

Israel commenced the attack on Gaza following the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas which led to the death of about 1,200 people.


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