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42 Democrats Vote With GOP to Sanction ICC Over Netanyahu Warrant

The bill “flies in the face of international law,” one legal scholar said.

A general view of the International Criminal Court building in The Hague, Netherlands, on April 30, 2024.

In a move that human rights groups are warning could have negative effects on the enforcement of human rights standards across the globe, the House passed a bill on Tuesday sanctioning the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its seeking of arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders for their genocidal assault of Gaza.

Republicans and 42 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, which passed 247 to 155. It calls on President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on the ICC and any people involved in an ICC process of prosecuting or investigating any “protected person” of the U.S. and its allies.

The bill is unlikely to become law, with the Senate not expected to take up the bill and the Biden administration having released a Statement of Administration Policy on Monday expressing its opposition.

However, the passage of the bill is a show of how far many U.S. lawmakers are willing to go to show fealty to Israel at a time when myriad human rights experts and legal scholars have said that Israeli forces, led by Netanyahu and his far right coalition, have been perpetuating a horrific genocide in Gaza.

“Despite Israel’s transparent and ubiquitous seven-month genocidal campaign in Gaza, virtually all GOP House members and a large number of Democrats voted to sanction the International Criminal Court for considering arrest warrants against top Israeli leaders,” said Marjorie Cohn, legal scholar and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, to Truthout.

“This vote is emblematic of the enormous influence Israel has over U.S. foreign policy and flies in the face of international law,” Cohn said.

The ICC’s move to seek arrest warrants against an ally of the United States is a rare one — but one that rights groups say is urgently needed if the international community is to end Israel’s relentless slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has had a long history of committing what experts say are grave human rights violations against Palestinians even before October, and is now perpetuating countless more atrocities in Gaza.

Human rights advocacy groups warned that the House bill has negative implications not just regarding the U.S.’s complicity in the Gaza genocide, but also international leaders’ ability to prosecute or prevent human rights violations across the world.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that the bill is written in a way that could be interpreted extremely broadly and have a “severe chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech” on those in the U.S. involved with ICC investigations — therefore potentially having a severe chilling effect on other ICC probes like the one against Russian officials in their war on Ukraine.

The bill is also a show that U.S. political leaders are willing to undermine the U.S.’s own image abroad in order to ensure that Israel can continue its genocide, groups said.

“No one is above the law, especially Netanyahu,” said pro-Palestine group Institute for Middle East Understanding Policy Project. “The rest of the world is repulsed by Israel’s genocide in Gaza and understands the solution is to hold war criminals like Netanyahu accountable. Our Congress is inviting Netanyahu and backing sanctions against the ICC. Shameful.”

“[A]ttacking the court through sanctions of this kind undermines the United States in its stated objective to be a global leader in securing justice for victims and legal accountability for the worst crimes,” wrote a coalition of faith-based groups in a letter to Congress opposing the bill. Signatories included the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which said that the bill would be “deeply harmful” if signed into law.

“If sanctions were applied to the ICC’s personnel, civil society in the United States and around the world would be legally unable or feel too at-risk to continue engaging with the court in any meaningful way,” the groups continued. “Human rights organizations might therefore be unable to ensure evidence of crimes by any actor are documented and available to the ICC.”

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