‘What Dictators and Pariah States Do’: Republicans Advance Bill to Sanction ICC

“Lawmakers should unequivocally oppose the new Republican bill to sanction the International Criminal Court,” said one analyst.

Rep. Chip Roy
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 29, 2024 in Washington, D.C. 
(Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)


JAKE JOHNSON

Jun 04, 2024 – https://www.commondreams.org/

House Republicans on Monday advanced legislation that aims to sanction the International Criminal Court after the Hague-based tribunal formally applied for arrest warrants last month against Israel’s prime minister and defense minister.

The GOP-dominated House Rules Committee voted 9-3 to send the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act to the floor of the lower chamber, barreling ahead with an attempt to punish the ICC for working to hold Israeli leaders accountable for war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip. The ICC is also seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leaders.

The measure was introduced by Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) in early May, two weeks prior to the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of the arrest warrant applications.

The bill’s language is sweeping: If passed, it would require the U.S. president to impose sanctions on the ICC if the body is “engaged in any effort to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any protected person of the United States and its allies.”

The Republican-authored measure defines protected persons as current or former armed forces members, current or former elected or appointed government officials, and “any other person currently or formerly employed by or working on behalf of” the U.S. or an allied government.

“This is a bad bill,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, said Monday during the panel’s hearing on the legislation. “The International Criminal Court is an important institution, and those who care about human rights would certainly agree with that assessment. And I think that it is not in America’s moral or strategic interest to attack the court for attempting to do its job.”

“Lawmakers should unequivocally oppose the new Republican bill to sanction the International Criminal Court.”

Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs at the Center for International Policy, noted on social media that the bill is “so broadly written that it could even sanction officials of the ICC or U.S. allies who help investigate, arrest, or prosecute Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, because he resides in a ‘major non-NATO ally’ that is not a party to the Rome Statute.”

“Lawmakers should unequivocally oppose the new Republican bill to sanction the International Criminal Court,” Williams wrote. “Threatening and penalizing legitimate international institutions, their staff, or members is what dictators and pariah states do, not democracies seeking to uphold the rule of law.”

Neither the U.S. nor Israel are state parties to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. The governments of both nations have argued that the ICC lacks jurisdiction to investigate Israeli war crimes—a claim that international legal experts have rejected—and U.S. and Israeli lawmakers have openly threatened the tribunal over its probe in the occupied Palestinian territories.

While the Biden administration supported the ICC’s decision to issue arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2023 over war crimes committed in Ukraine—even though neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the Rome Statute—the administration has condemned the ICC’s pursuit of arrest warrants against Israeli leaders.

But in an official policy statement released Monday, the Biden White House said it “strongly opposes” the GOP’s Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, noting that the bill “could require sanctions against court staff, judges, witnesses, and U.S. allies and partners who provide even limited, targeted support to the court in a range of aspects of its work.”

The White House did not pledge that U.S. President Joe Biden would veto the bill if it passes the House and Senate, saying only that “there are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve U.S. positions on the ICC, and promote international justice and accountability, and the administration stands ready to work with the Congress on those options”—without offering specifics.

The full House is expected to vote on the legislation on Tuesday. Axiosreported that “several pro-Israel House Democrats, including Reps. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), signaled” that they are “likely” to join Republicans in supporting the bill.