Portman, Cardin Lead Bipartisan Senate Call for Secretary Blinken to Continue to Defend Israel Against Politically Motivated Investigations by the International Criminal Court

March 11, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) led a bipartisan majority of Senators in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to continue to use America’s influence to push back against the International Criminal Courts’ recent politically motivated decision to illegally and unfairly pursue alleged war crimes investigations against the State of Israel. 

The letter states in part: 

“The ICC does not have legitimate territorial jurisdiction in this case. As articulated by State Department Spokesman Ned Price in response to this ICC decision, ‘the United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the U.N. Security Council.’ Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, and therefore has not consented to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, ICC rules prohibit it from prosecuting cases against the citizens of a country with a robust judicial system willing and able to prosecute atrocity crimes committed by its personnel and officials. The ICC’s mandate should not supersede Israel’s robust judicial system, including its military justice system.”   

After sending the letter, Senators Portman and Cardin released the following statement: “We are again pleased that so many of our Senate colleagues joined us on this important effort to push back against the politically motivated persecution of Israel. We commend Secretary Blinken’s statements condemning the ICC’s decision and we urge the Biden Administration to partner with Congress to work together in this effort. The ICC has no jurisdiction over disputed territories and this decision creates a dangerous precedent that undermines the purposes for which the court was founded. This effort is discriminatory against Israel and will serve to make a lasting solution, based on direct negotiations between the two parties, more difficult to achieve.” 

Joining Portman and Cardin in the letter to Blinken are: Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Mike Braun (R-IN), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), James Lankford (R-OK), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), James E. Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Thune (R-SD), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA), Michael S. Lee (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tina Smith (D-MN), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Mark Warner (D-VA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Boozman (R-AR), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), John Hoven (R-ND), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Todd Young (R-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). 

The full text is available below and here .   

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

We urge you to continue your strong support of Israel, and we commend your recent statements denouncing the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber and the ICC Office of the Prosecutor for decisions to authorize and officially proceed with an investigation for alleged crimes in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.  While we support the ICC’s stated goal of ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes of concern to the international community, we are concerned that the Court’s recent actions regarding the “Situation in Palestine” have inappropriately infused politics into the judicial process. 

The ICC does not have legitimate territorial jurisdiction in this case. As articulated by State Department Spokesman Ned Price in response to this ICC decision, “the United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the U.N. Security Council.” Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, and therefore has not consented to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, ICC rules prohibit it from prosecuting cases against the citizens of a country with a robust judicial system willing and able to prosecute atrocity crimes committed by its personnel and officials. The ICC’s mandate should not supersede Israel’s robust judicial system, including its military justice system. 

To avoid these limitations, the ICC has asserted jurisdiction in this investigation by deciding that the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem belong to the state of “Palestine,” which acceded to the Rome Statute in 2015. We strongly oppose this decision. “Palestine” does not meet the criteria for designation as a state, and the delineation of the boundaries of any future Palestinian state is a political decision that must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not within the authority of the ICC to accept or deny any party’s claims to these disputed territories, nor has the Court ever before formally investigated allegations taking place in disputed territories. This unprecedented action by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber unfairly targets Israel, biases any subsequent investigation or trial, and hinders the path towards regional peace. 

The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision constitutes a dangerous politicization of the Court and distorts the purposes for which the Court was established. As the world’s only permanent international criminal tribunal, the ICC is intended as a court of last resort for the prosecution of the most serious atrocities, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The Pre-Trial Chamber's ruling creates an exception for the Court to investigate Israel, even while it is unable or unwilling to address some of the most urgent human rights cases in the world today, including those in Iran, Syria, and China. 

Accordingly, we believe that the United States should stand in full force against the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber's decision to authorize an investigation into alleged crimes in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem and the ICC Prosecutor’s decision to proceed with such an investigation. We also urge you to work with like-minded international partners to steer the ICC away from further actions that could damage the Court’s credibility by giving the appearance of political bias. We ask that you give this matter your full attention and that you continue to defend Israel against discriminatory attacks in all international fora. 

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