International Criminal Court Members Speak Out

Human Rights

Ninety-three member countries of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have declared their “unwavering support” for the court in the face of recent threats. 

The June 14 statement by an unprecedented number of ICC members across the globe follows a slew of threats, particularly after ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced on May 20 that he was seeking arrest warrants against two senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with three Hamas leaders.

The joint statement reconfirmed ICC members’ support for the court “as an independent and impartial judicial institution” and their committment to defending the ICC, its officials, and those cooperating with it from any political interference and pressure. It follows similar expressions of support by the Presidency of the ICC Assembly of States Partiesseveral ICC member countries—including UN Security Council members—the high representative of the European UnionUN special procedures, and nongovernmental organizations.

In April, amid speculation ICC warrants for crimes committed in Gaza were imminent, 12 US senators threatened to sanction Khan should he pursue cases against top Israeli officials. Netanyahu also called on governments to prevent the court from issuing warrants. Khan’s office denounced the threats, noting that the ICC can also prosecute individuals for obstructing justice.

On June 4, after the warrant applications were announced, the US House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at imposing sanctions against the ICC, its officials, and those supporting investigations at the court involving US citizens or allies. The bill is now under consideration in the US Senate. The proposed law is reminiscent of the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump on the previous ICC prosecutor to intimidate the court from pursuing cases against US and Israeli personnel for crimes committed in Afghanistan and Palestine. President Joe Biden revoked those sanctions in 2021 and has so far opposed the current bill.

The ICC is also in Russia’s crosshairs. In 2023, Russian authorities issued arrest warrants against Khan and six ICC judges after the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and another Russian official for war crimes committed in Ukraine. Russian lawmakers also enacted a law criminalizing cooperation with the ICC.

In both the Palestine and Ukraine investigations, ICC officials are simply doing their job. The joint statement sends a strong message that ICC members have the court’s back and will not bow to efforts to undermine its independence.

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