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U.S House Passes International Criminal Court Sanctions Bill After Prosecutor Places Arrest Warrant On Netanyahu

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House Republicans responded to the court’s request for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by voting in favor of a bill that would penalize officials of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have strongly retaliated against the ICC’s targeting of Netanyahu. While the administration has stated that it does not support the GOP-led effort to sanction the court, President Joe Biden has also strongly denounced the ICC move, stating that “there is no equivalency” between Israel and Hamas.

The Senate’s consideration of the sanctions bill is improbable. The bill passed the House 247 to 155, with 42 Democrats and 155 Republicans voting in favor of it. Two Republicans cast yes votes.

In an exclusive interview last month, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan informed CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the court is requesting arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the attacks on Israel on October 7 and the ensuing conflict in Gaza.

The legislative text states that those “engaged in any effort to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any protected person of the United States and its allies” would face penalties under the bill. Sanctions include halting and canceling visas, as well as forbidding transactions involving US real estate.

The Hague, Netherlands, is home to the headquarters of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was established in 2002. Prosecution of individuals for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide is part of its mandate.

Since the ICC lacks an apparatus for self-policing, its ability to make arrests has relied on national cooperation. Instead of being a sign of guilt, the decision to ask for an arrest warrant is the start of a process that could lead to a protracted trial.

Politicians in Israel and Hamas both criticized the ICC’s decision.

At the end of last month, House Speaker Mike Johnson declared that Congress would act “to punish the ICC and ensure its leadership faces consequences if they proceed,” denouncing the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its attempt to obtain warrants for top Israeli officials.

The ICC had never before aimed at the head of a close ally of the United States, until the action against the Israeli politicians. Judges from the International Criminal Court will review Khan’s request for the arrest warrants.

The administration “strongly opposes” the legislation, according to a Biden administration policy statement on the measure.

“The Administration is deeply concerned about the ICC Prosecutor’s heedless rush to apply for arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials. At the same time, the administration opposes the imposition of sanctions against the ICC, its personnel, its judges, or those who assist its work.

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,” the statement reads.

There is still a lot of pressure on Biden and Congressional Democrats from various groups regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

“It’s shameful to see 42 Democrats in the House vote with Republicans to undermine human rights around the world by sanctioning the ICC, all to shield Netanyahu from arrest,” Josh Ruebner, the policy director for the Institute for Middle East Understanding Policy Project, a pro-Palestinian advocacy group, said in a statement.

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