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House Republicans urge Biden to curb ties with PA over ICC complaint

Washington (QNN)- A group of 25 US House Republicans sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging them to curb ties with the Palestinian Authority over its complaint against ‘Israel’ at the International Criminal Court.

Spearheaded by Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, the lawmakers wrote in the letter, “We are writing to implore the White House and the State Department to uphold longstanding law regarding the threat posed to American soldiers and our allies by the misuse of the International Criminal Court.”

When Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, it included language forbidding funding assistance for the PA if it were to initiate an ICC judicially authorized investigation, or if it were to actively support such an investigation into alleged crimes committed against the Palestinians by Israel, the letter said.

“We believe that this type of unilateral lawfare flies in the face of American objectives to help both parties achieve a negotiated, lasting, and comprehensive peace,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Such language clearly warned of the ramifications should such action be taken and has been a part of our appropriations process since 2014, with massive bipartisan consensus every year.”

Moreover, “the PA has unequivocally violated the first condition of that provision by, among other things, submitting a formal referral to the ICC in 2018,” they wrote, adding that it also violated the second condition by “repeated submission of purported evidence and materiel to the ICC, and official visits and communications with the ICC Prosecutor and staff, actively in support of the Court’s investigation.”

“As we enter a new administration, we strongly believe that it is imperative to continue to uphold the established law of the land,” the letter said.

“Those commitments include barring any funding assistance for the PA, as well as the continued closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, D.C.”

‘Israel’ is not a member of the ICC and neither is the US, the Palestinians joined the court in 2015; both ‘Israel’ and the US reject the ICC jurisdiction.

Both the United States and Israel are not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the lawmakers wrote.

“Last month, the Prosecutor and the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court proceeded to approve and open an investigation of our closest ally, Israel,” they added.

“The move is an attack on the fundamentals of international law, including respect for consent, sovereignty, and the concept of complementarity in the case of countries, like the United States and Israel, that are governed by the rule of law.”

“The ICC move concerning Israel, and the PA’s active support, initiation, participation and encouragement of it, are major impediments to the peace process and America’s strong commitment to a negotiated settlement,” the letter said.

President Joe Biden revoked sanctions on top officials at the International Criminal Court that were imposed under the Trump administration, the State Department announced Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the economic sanctions imposed on ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and a top aide in 2019 “were inappropriate and ineffective,” and were therefore lifted.

“We continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-states parties such as the United States and Israel,” Blinken said.

He added, “We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.”

Last year, former US President Donald Trump imposed economic and travel sanctions against International Criminal Court employees investigating abuses by Americans and its allies, including the occupation state of ‘Israel’.

Under these sanctions, any employee who “have directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States or the personnel of countries that are United States allies” may be subject to sanctions.

This step comes months after the ICC authorized last year a probe into war crimes committed in Afghanistan by US and Afghan forces. It also follows the court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda decision to open an investigation into crimes committed by ‘Israel’ against the Palestinians.

The Biden administration has sought to distance itself from the policies of the previous administration and wants to ease tensions with European governments and with human rights organizations over the restrictions, according to a report issued on Wednesday night by the US State Department.

A spokesperson for the State Department said, “Much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian Situations, the administration is thoroughly reviewing sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13928 as we determine our next steps.”

The new US administration supports reforms “to help the court better achieve its core mission of punishing and deterring atrocity crimes” and may cooperate with the ICC in “exceptional cases,” the State Department spokesman added.

The Biden administration must also respond by April 5 to a lawsuit filed in October which challenges the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order which invoked the sanctions, according to Foreign Policy. The executive order is due to expire in June.

The chief prosecutor of the ICC said recently that she launched a formal probe into Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office,” she added.

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