Sen. Tom Cotton

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on May 1, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

GOP Senators Threaten ICC: 'Target Israel and We Will Target You'

"You have been warned," wrote 12 Republican lawmakers led by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Just over a week before the International Criminal Court issued a statement condemning threats against the institution, a dozen Republicans in the U.S. Senate sent a letter to the ICC's prosecutor warning him against pursuing charges against Israeli officials over war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.

The letter, dated April 24 and reported exclusively by Zeteo on Monday, explicitly threatens U.S. retaliation against the ICC if it issues arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other top Israeli officials.

"Target Israel and we will target you," reads the letter, which was led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a notorious war hawk, and signed by 11 others, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The letter specifically threatens to sanction ICC employees and associates and bar them and their families from entering the United States, which is not a party to the ICC.

"You have been warned," states the letter, which invokes the American Service-Members’ Protection Act—a 2002 law informally known as "The Hague Invasion Act."

As Zeteo explained, the law "authorizes the U.S. president 'to use all means necessary and appropriate' to bring about the release not just of U.S. persons but also allies who are imprisoned or detained by the ICC."

Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.), who delivered the infamous GOP response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union Address earlier this year, told Zeteo that the letter is "not a threat," but "a promise."

The 12 Republicans sent their letter days before the office of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan released a statement warning that its "independence and impartiality are undermined... when individuals threaten to retaliate against the court or against court personnel" as they conduct their investigations.

"Such threats, even when not acted upon, may also constitute an offense against the administration of justice under [Article] 70 of the Rome Statute," the statement added. "The office insists that all attempts to impede, intimidate, or improperly influence its officials cease immediately."

While the ICC statement did not mention any individuals or governments by name, it is apparent that its message was directed at least in part at Republican lawmakers in the U.S.

The Biden White House and Netanyahu have also spoken out against the ICC amid reports that it is considering arrest warrants for the Israeli prime minister and other senior officials.

"We've been really clear about the ICC investigation," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters late last month. "We do not support it. We don't believe that they have the jurisdiction. And I'm just gonna leave it there for now."

Since October 7, Israeli forces have killed more than 34,600 people in Gaza—a death toll that could surge if Israel moves ahead with its planned ground invasion of Rafah. Women and children account for up to 70% of those killed by Israel's military thus far.

Like the U.S., Israel is not a party to the ICC, but the court says it has jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories. In 2021, the ICC launched a probe into alleged war crimes in the territories, including Gaza.

Palestine became an ICC member in 2015.

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