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March 2, 2021 10:09 am

Senators Urge Blinken to More Strongly Condemn ICC War Crimes Probe of Israel

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Newly confirmed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken concludes his first press briefing at the State Department in Washington, US, January 27, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Pool – Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are urging US Secretary of State Tony Blinken to take a stronger position against the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation against Israel.

In a letter circulating among their colleagues and obtained by Haaretz, the two senators said Blinken should “issue a more forceful condemnation of the court’s actions” after the ICC announced on Feb. 5 that it has territorial jurisdiction to investigate Israel for committing war crimes in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The US State Department came out with a statement expressing “serious concerns” about the ruling and opposing the court’s “attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.” Cardin and Portman, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are now calling for more action from Blinken.

“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,” said the letter. “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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Cardin and Portman said they are “concerned that the court’s recent actions” have “inappropriately infused politics into the judicial process.”

“The ICC’s mandate should not supersede Israel’s robust judicial system, including its military justice system,” added the senators, explaining that “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.”

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