CHICAGO: US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a formal investigation into war crimes committed by both Israel’s military and Palestinian militants.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who will be replaced by Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019: “War crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
She named both the Israel Defense Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.
Blinken said: “The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.”
The Biden administration “firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed” by this decision, he added. “The Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state in, participate as a state in, or delegate jurisdiction to the ICC.”
Despite his denunciation, Blinken said the US “remains deeply committed to ensuring justice and accountability for international atrocity crimes. We recognize the role that international tribunals such as the ICC can play — within their respective mandates — in the pursuit of those important objectives.”
The US “believes a peaceful, secure and more prosperous future for the people of the Middle East depends on building bridges and creating new avenues for dialogue and exchange, not unilateral judicial actions that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,” he added.
“We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”
Israel also denounced the ICC decision, while the Palestinian Authority welcomed it. Bensouda said the decision to open an investigation “followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years.”
She added: “In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides.”
Ned Price, State Department press secretary, said despite opposing an ICC investigation, the Biden administration “would always stand up for human rights.”
He added: “We are thoroughly reviewing sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13928 as we determine our next steps.”
Executive Order 13928, issued by former US President Donald Trump in June 2020, “blocks property of certain parties associated with the International Criminal Court.”