US Lawmakers Call on Pompeo to Defend Israel in ICC Probe
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers from both chambers of Congress have sent separate letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on the Trump Administration to defend Israel against investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. According to US media, the Senate initiative was spearheaded by Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and included 69 signatures. House Representatives Elaine Luria (D-Virginia) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) led a parallel effort supported by over 260 colleagues. The letters were prompted by a position paper released last month by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that defended her court’s jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes in Palestinian-claimed territories in the West Bank, including the eastern part of Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip. Her argument was based on the premise that there is, in fact, a State of Palestine, even though the United Nations Security Council is the only body in the world that can legally recognize a new nation and the US has long prevented any such designation from being applied to the Palestinians. Accordingly, Cardin and Portman argued in a joint statement that “the ICC has no jurisdiction over disputed territories and [the prosecutor’s] claim creates a dangerous precedent that undermines the purposes for which the court was founded.” The statement added that Bensouda’s decision was “discriminatory against Israel and will serve to make a lasting solution, based on direct negotiations between the two parties, more difficult to achieve.” As neither the US nor Israel are signatories to the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding charter, they hold that the court has no jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes committed by their militaries. Notably, the Trump Administration in early 2019 imposed visa restrictions on ICC investigators looking into war crimes purportedly committed by American troops in Afghanistan. “In instances when war crimes are committed, we believe our nation and Israel are both able and willing to carry out investigations and prosecute offenders without ICC involvement,” the House letter read in part.