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Misleading American Claims Regarding the ICC’s Jurisdiction Over Palestine and the Gaza War

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
9th May 2024
Misleading American Claims Regarding the ICC’s Jurisdiction Over Palestine and the Gaza War
U.S. claims on ICC jurisdiction in Palestine (Getty)

On April 29, Palestinian journalist Said Arikat raised a question to Vedant Patel, the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, during a press conference. Arikat inquired about the U.S. alliance with Israel aimed at preventing any potential arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the International Criminal Court (ICC), specifically regarding Israeli crimes in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip. Arikat sought clarification and confirmation from Patel on this matter, highlighting the discrepancy between the U.S.'s current stance and its previous support for the ICC’s issuance of an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Patel responded to the journalist's question by emphasizing that there is no comparison between the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war and those of the Israeli government. He stated, "We are engaging with the court on various issues, including its important work on Sudan and Ukraine. However, regarding this investigation, our position is clear. We maintain that the ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Palestinian situation." Patel asserted that Palestine falls outside the ICC's jurisdiction, thereby precluding the court from conducting investigations or issuing arrest warrants against Israeli officials for the genocide crimes committed by the Israeli occupation in Gaza.

Department Press Briefing with Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel, at the Department of State

The United States opposes the ICC's investigation concerning Israel, as reiterated by White House spokesperson Karen Jean-Pierre on April 29. Jean-Pierre claimed that the court lacks jurisdiction in this matter and emphasized that the United States does not support this investigation.

The United States' position followed reports surfaced indicating Israel’s concern that the Court is preparing to issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s concern that the Court is preparing to issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

During a press briefing on April 29, Karen Jean-Pierre stated, "We don’t believe it’s in the ICC's jurisdiction in this situation. We do not support the investigation." It is worth noting that the United States is not a member of the ICC due to its decision not to sign the court's official charter.

Palestine Is a Member of the ICC

However, the recent U.S. claims that the ICC lacks jurisdiction in Palestine and has no authority to dispose Palestinian issues are baseless.

Palestine's membership in the ICC was accepted in 2015, following its signing of the Rome Statute that established the court. Since then, the ICC has had the legal authority to pursue and prosecute crimes committed within Palestinian territories or involving Palestinians as victims or defendants.

Palestine Is a Member of the ICC

The Chairman of the International Commission Refutes U.S. Claims to Misbar

Salah Abdel Ati, an expert in international law and the chairman of the International Commission to Support Palestinians’ Rights (Hashd), told Misbar that "the claims made by the spokesperson of the U.S. State Department regarding the jurisdiction of the ICC in Palestine lack merit. He highlights that a ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC has ratified the application of the Rome Statute, which established the court, to the territories under Palestinian occupation, encompassing the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

Furthermore, Abdel Ati pointed out that the ICC has previously opened investigations into Israeli occupation crimes, particularly the crime of settlement. Presently, the ICC has commenced a thorough investigation into the Israeli occupation’s crimes and genocide committed in its war on Gaza.

Abdel Ati further asserted that these attempts by the U.S. aim to deter the court from executing its mandate. He pointed out that this is not the first time the U.S. has exerted pressure on the court to defend Israel as its ally and to protect its leaders due to the U.S.'s own track record of violations, war crimes, and alleged genocide.

In his conclusion, Abdel Ati emphasized that the United States is actively striving to forestall the issuance of any arrest warrants targeting Israeli officials. He noted that U.S. Congressional members have been dispatched to engage with the ICC's prosecutor, and there are ongoing efforts to introduce legislation aimed at impeding the court's ability to carry out its duties. It is important to note that domestic laws do not hold sway over international law.

However, Abdel Ati clarified that, legally speaking, the United States lacks legal authority to assume this role, but it is persistently working to exert these pressures to shield the Israeli occupation leaders from any accountability.

The ICC Prosecutor Warns Against Recent Pressures and Threats

In the same vein, on May 3, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor insisted that all attempts to impede, intimidate, or improperly influence the court's officials must cease immediately. The office unequivocally rejected the proposal to enact legislation directed against the ICC and its personnel. However, specific details regarding these threats were not provided.

Although the statement did not delve into specifics regarding the threats, several media outlets linked them to potential arrest warrants that may be issued by the court against Israeli officials, amidst Israeli and American opposition.

The ICC has been investigating Israeli crimes in Palestinian territories since 2021, starting from the war on Gaza in 2014 to the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza, in addition to opening an investigation into the events surrounding the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

It is expected that the ICC will issue arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, and other officials.

Netanyahu Calls on Captives’ Families to Pressure the ICC Prosecutor

According to media reports, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited the families of Israeli captives held by the Hamas movement, urging the families to exert pressure on the ICC's prosecutor to prevent the issuance of arrest warrants. Netanyahu's actions followed his realization that the captives' families had developed a positive relationship with the prosecutor and his team, following their recent travels to present a plea for the release of their children held by Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu Calls on Captives’ Families to Pressure the ICC Prosecutor

In late April, Israeli media reported, citing private sources, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "afraid and tense" about the possibility of an arrest warrant being issued against him by the ICC. He made several phone calls to world leaders, specifically U.S. President Joe Biden, to exert pressure on the ICC to refrain from issuing such a warrant against him.

Netanyahu Calls on Captives’ Families to Pressure the ICC Prosecutor

It is notable to mention that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has previously issued arrest warrants against prominent leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group in Uganda.

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