World News

US labels ICC arrest warrants on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘outrageous’

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he’s willing to work on an appropriate response to the decision by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

Echoing sentiments from the White House describing the move by Karim Khan as “outrageous”, Blinken described the effort to seek indictments against Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant as “wrongheaded” amid efforts from members of Congress to introduce legislation that would sanction the Prosecutor, his associates and their families – likely barring them from entry to the United States.

US Secretary of State describes targeting Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘wrongheaded. The decision by Prosecutor Khan on Monday to seek indictments against both the leadership of Hamas and Israel for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the October 7th attacks and the subsequent military response that has destroyed Gaza has shaken the political establishment not only in Israel but also in the United States which argues that the ICC does not have jurisdiction despite a decision by the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber in February 2021 that it had criminal jurisdiction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Blinken says the Prosecutor’s decision further complicates efforts towards reaching a ceasefire agreement between the warring parties.

“It’s challenged by a number of events and I have to say, yes the extremely wrongheaded decision by the ICC Prosecutor yesterday, the shameful equivalence implied between Hamas and the leadership of Israel, I think that only complicates the prospects of getting such an agreement. We’ll continue to forge ahead to do that but that decision, as you said, on so many levels, is totally wrongheaded and we’ll be happy to work with Congress, with this committee on an appropriate response.”

The Biden administration in 2021 removed sanctions imposed against the Court by the Trump administration the previous year over investigations into alleged war crimes by US forces in Afghanistan and by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Blinken was asked if he would support new legislation to sanction officials of the Court. “Let’s look at it, we wanna work with you on a bipartisan basis to find an appropriate response, I’m committed to doing that, you say the devil’s in the details so let’s see what you got and we can take it from there.

US President Joe Biden also weighing in on processes both at the ICC and the International Court of Justice. “We reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders. Whatever these warrants may imply, there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas, and it’s clear Israel wants to do all it can to ensure civilian protection. Let me be clear. Contrary to allegations against Israel made by the International Court of Justice, what’s happening is not genocide. We reject that and we’ll always stand with Israel and the threats against its security.”

On Tuesday, the Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said he would move ahead with an invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress despite the developments in The Hague. This as criticism directed towards the ICC only gathered steam as expressed by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The most noxious attempt at moral equivalence comes from unelected international bureaucrats brandishing a contrived and perverted authority. The ICC has succeeded only in discrediting itself even further as a rogue kangaroo court, utterly untethered to morality or justice.

And while the broad reaction from US lawmakers has been to criticise the Court, that condemnation was not universal as Independent Senator Bernie Sanders explains.

“What the ICC is doing is important for the world. It’s to tell leaders all over the world, dictators, and people in democratic countries, that if you go to war, you just cannot wage all-out war against civilians. That’s what the ICC is doing. That’s important. But, Mr. President, how can or how will the United States be able to criticise any country in the world, whether it is Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, or anyone else, any other country in the world? If we pretend that what is happening in Gaza, if we actually believe what Netanyahu is saying? If we turn our backs and ignore the crimes against humanity that are being committed in Gaza right now, what credibility will we ever have in criticising the actions of any country, no matter how terrible those actions may be?”

In his statement on Monday, Prosecutor Khan said it was critical that his Office and the independent judges of the Court be permitted to conduct their work with full independence and impartiality, insisting that all attempts to impede, intimidate, or improperly influence the officials of the Court must cease immediately and that his Office stood ready to act in accordance with Article 70 of the Rome Statute that addresses offenses against the administration of justice.

Source: BBC

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