US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the International Criminal Court (ICC) against prosecuting Israel for alleged crimes it committed against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and threatened to “exact consequences” if it continues to do so.
Last month, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda affirmed her attempt to exercise jurisdiction over PA-controlled areas in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza through a new filing to the Court.
In his Friday statement, Pompeo stressed that even though the PA has purported to join the Rome Statute that created the court, “we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC.”
Under ICC rules, only sovereign states can delegate criminal jurisdiction over their territory and citizens to the court. Should the court share the view that Palestine does not constitute a formal state under international law, the ICC would not be able to hear the case.
“Palestine” has been a member of the ICC since 2015, while Israel is not a member and has decided to disregard the probe.
Pompeo further accused the ICC of serving as “a political body, not a judicial institution.”
“This unfortunate reality has been confirmed yet again by the ICC Prosecutor’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over Israel, which like the United States, is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the Court,” he noted.
“A court that attempts to exercise its power outside its jurisdiction is a political tool that makes a mockery of the law and due process,” he charged.
“The United States reiterates its longstanding objection to any illegitimate ICC investigations. If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences,” he warned.
Pompeo issued the sharp statement after visiting Israel earlier in the week.
Earlier this month, Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz, Coordinator of the Intermenstrual Task Force for the ICC, stated that “as someone who has closely followed” developments at the ICC, he is “forced to conclude that the Prosecutor’s latest position continues to espouse her typical anti-Israel stance, as influenced by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the global BDS movement.”
“The Prosecutor’s disregard for the opinions of some of the world’s leading experts on international law points to her determination to harm the State of Israel and tarnish its name,” he charged.
“In the name of this objective she has reformulated the rules of international law, inventing a Palestinian state while the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has yet to be concluded,” he added.
“Israel will continue to be proud of the fact that it is the only liberal democracy in the entire Middle East – and to vigorously reject baseless attempts to tarnish its name and harm its soldiers and civilians,” he concluded.