President Joe Biden may have put himself at risk of prosecution for aiding the committing of war crimes, an expert has said, with his acknowledgement this week that Israel is “indiscriminate[ly] bombing” Gaza, which is widely considered a violation of international human rights law.
In an interview with the U.K’s i News published Wednesday, former head of Human Rights Watch and international law lawyer Kenneth Roth said that Biden essentially admitted that Israel is committing war crimes and that his statement could be used as evidence that he is culpable in those violations.
“Biden is in effect conceding that the Israeli military is committing war crimes in Gaza,” Roth told i. “It is a war crime to bomb indiscriminately. That begs the question why the U.S. government continues to supply arms to Israel while it is committing war crimes.”
Roth went on to say that U.S. officials, potentially including Biden himself, could be prosecuted for “knowingly aiding and abetting war crimes,” and that Biden’s comment could be used as evidence in that case. He brought up the example of one particularly prominent example of this happening in the past.
“Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted by an internationally backed court of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone by providing arms to a rebel group that was committing them,” Roth said. “He is currently serving a 50-year prison term in a British prison.”
Indiscriminate bombing refers to bombardment campaigns that aren’t targeted specifically to military objects and incur civilian harm. This practice is barred under the Geneva Conventions — and Biden acknowledged that Israel is doing it in front of a room full of donors on Tuesday.
“Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting them,” Biden said. “They’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”
There is ample evidence that Israel is killing civilians in Gaza with abandon. Israeli officials have obfuscated the number of Hamas militants that it has killed in its current genocidal assault. One Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson said last week that they have achieved a 2 to 1 civilian-to-militant death ratio. But human rights groups have estimated that the ratio is more like 9 to 1 civilians to militants killed — a rate not seen in any other modern military conflict, according to data from a 2021 study by public health researchers.
U.S. officials are aware of Israel’s seeming recklessness with regard to civilian death. A U.S. intelligence assessment reported this week by CNN found that 40 to 45 percent of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions that Israel has dropped on Gaza since October 7 have been unguided bombs, also known as “dumb” bombs, that lack precision technology and thus incur more civilian harm than their GPS-powered counterparts. The use of thousands of such bombs could be further proof of Israeli war crimes, experts have said.
Despite this, U.S. officials are still sending Israel weapons and other military aid — and are in fact aiming to do so as quickly and quietly as possible.
According to reporting by The Intercept this week, the Pentagon has assembled a “Tiger Team” focused on facilitating rapid weapons transfers to Israel. The claims of “indiscriminate” bombardments and civilian harm are of no concern in this mission, according to the report.
“The Tiger Team is looking at issues of civilian harm, and is raising those issues, but is being met with absolute lack of interest and direction from the top to keep the process moving,” one source familiar with the team told The Intercept.
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