The judges and guests of the International Criminal Court at the opening of the ICC judicial year on Jan. 18, 2019, in The Hague. Credit: International Criminal Court.
(JNS) — U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a bill with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Feb. 2 to sanction officials and associates of the International Criminal Court who investigate or prosecute U.S. troops and officials, or American allies that do not recognize the authority of the tribunal, such as Israel.
“The ICC has no legitimate jurisdiction over the United States or any country that does not recognize the ICC’s authority. This legislation rejects the Biden administration’s appeasement of the ICC. It also protects our service members, officials and allies against the court’s politically motivated attacks, as we’ve seen the court do time and again with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Israeli efforts to defend themselves from terrorist aggression,” said Cotton.
The bill would impose penalties on any ICC employee or associate involved in investigating, prosecuting, or assisting in a probe of current or former U.S. soldiers or officials, or the current or former officials or troops of any ally of the United States that does not recognize the authority of the ICC. It would also revoke the visas of all ICC employees, all persons acting on behalf of the ICC and the immediate family members of those sanctioned for investigating U.S. and allied troops and officials.
“The International Criminal Court has no authority over the sovereignty and security of our citizens. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation sanctioning the ICC if it persecutes our troops, officials or allies,” said Cruz.
Added Rubio: “We must protect our men and women in uniform from investigations or prosecutions conducted by an international court and judges who are not accountable to the American people.”
According to the U.S. lawmakers, the legislation is needed due to the Biden administration having reversed a Trump administration executive order that would have similarly held the ICC accountable.
The ICC in February 2021 ruled that Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem are within its jurisdiction, as “Palestine [is] a State party to the ICC Rome Statute, [the body’s founding charter].” The ICC’s 2-1 decision cleared the way for the opening of a war crimes probe into Israeli Defense Force actions.
“The ICC ignores the real war crimes and instead pursues the State of Israel, a state with a strong democratic government that sanctifies the rule of law, and is not a member of the ICC,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the time.
“In this decision, the ICC violated the right of democracies to defend themselves against terrorism and played into the hands of those who undermine efforts to expand the circle of peace. We will continue to protect our citizens and soldiers in every way from legal persecution,” he added.
The U.S. State Department also issued a formal statement objecting to the ICC decision.
“As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute in 2015, we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC,” the statement said.
“We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel. The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the UN Security Council,” it concluded.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price noted that “Israel is not a State Party to the Rome Statute. We will continue to uphold [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden’s strong commitment to Israel and its security, including opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”