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Lawmakers or War-Mongering Bullies?

A dozen Republican senators sent a written threat to the International Criminal Court warning them not to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Which is itself illegal under international law.

Mary ManleyIsraeli officials reportedly said that their prime minister is ‘extremely nervous about the possible arrest warrants’, adding that he had spoken to several US lawmakers in recent days, asking them to press the ICC against taking action.A group of US Republican lawmakers released an open (and signed) letter threatening International Criminal Court (ICC) officials against issuing arrest warrants against Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The court shot back against the lawmakers’ threats, though they did not name the US specifically.“Target Israel and we will target you,” the senators said in a letter to ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan. The US lawmakers added that if the ICC does so, they will “sanction your employees and associates, and bar you and your families from the US.” “You have been warned,” they ominously added. The US lawmakers indirectly threatened to invoke the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (ASPA) in response to any arrest warrants. The act was signed into law in 2002 as a way for the US to protect itself against any accountability the ICC may seek and allows the US president to prevent Americans and other allies from being detained by the court. The legislation has been condemned by human rights organizations.

In their letter, the Republicans also wrote that the ICC’s arrest warrants would align them with the “largest state sponsor of terrorism and its proxy”. The officials then brazenly suggested that the US and Israel are “outside of [the ICC’s] supposed jurisdiction.”

The ICC has reportedly considered a warrant for Netanyahu for some time as they have been investigating since 2021 possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants that date back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. That investigation then extended to the October 7, 2023 attack and the ongoing war.Israel has made claims to the US that the Palestinian Authority officials are coercing the ICC prosecutor to issue arrest warrants against Israeli leaders. They then warned the Biden administration that if the ICC does issue arrest warrants against Israeli leaders they will ensure the Palestinian Authority’s collapse, a recent report detailed.In response, the court said they seek to “engage constructively with all stakeholders”.“The Office seeks to engage constructively with all stakeholders whenever such dialogue is consistent with its mandate under the Rome Statute to act independently and impartially,” the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said in a statement posted on X.“That independence and impartiality are undermined, however, when individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or against Court personnel should the Office, in fulfillment of its mandate, make decisions about investigations or cases falling within its jurisdiction,” the statement continues.

“Such threats, even when not acted upon, may also constitute an offense against the administration of justice under Art. 70 of the Rome Statute," the ICC added. "That provision explicitly prohibits both ‘retaliating against an official of the Court on account of duties performed by that or another official’ and ‘impeding, intimidating or corruptly influencing an official of the Court for the purpose of forcing or persuading the official not to perform, or to perform improperly, his or her duties.’"

The Biden administration has not commented on whether they will pursue actions against the ICC if they issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials, thought they have said that they do not support it.“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,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week.

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