J Street Opposes Excessive, Counterproductive Republican ICC Sanctions Bill

June 4, 2024

J Street joins the Biden Administration, the ACLU and a broad range of allied groups in strongly opposing the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act (H.R.8282).

The legislation undermines America’s commitment to a rules-based order and risks applying broad, excessive sanctions against International Criminal Court officials, witnesses, allied governments, and Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, among others. As the White House has said, “there are more effective ways to defend Israel, preserve US positions on the ICC, and promote international justice and accountability, and the Administration stands ready to work with the Congress on those options.”

While international courts such as the ICC face significant challenges and are imperfect institutions, international law and credible enforcement mechanisms are vital pillars of a stable world order. It is in America’s interests to support lawful means of seeking justice and deterring atrocity crimes, along with the instability, mass migration and intensified extremism they foster.

Among the many reasons to oppose this legislation, which would impose mandatory sanctions and visa restrictions on foreign persons, and their immediate family members, determined to be aiding or funding efforts by the ICC to conduct certain investigations and prosecutions:

  • The poorly drafted bill could absurdly result in US sanctions against those supporting the prosecution of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh, who resides in Qatar, could fall under the bill’s protections applying to “any foreign person that is a citizen or lawful resident of an ally of the United States that is not a party.”
  • Sanctions may apply to members of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups and respected international human rights groups for their engagement with the Court.
  • Sanctions would likely be applicable to leaders and ministers from key US allies. Members of the ICC who fund the Court and may have obligations to assist it include Canada, Japan, the UK, Germany, France, Australia and over 100 other states.
  • Sanctions could have a significant impact on all ICC cases, including the case against Vladimir Putin which has received bipartisan support. Sanctions risk impeding cases in Darfur, the DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burundi, Myanmar and elsewhere.
  • As the ACLU has noted, the bill “raises serious First Amendment concerns.” In addition, “[it] would undermine the rule of law and the independence of the ICC” and punish family members “for conduct in which they were not involved in any way.”
  • Attempts to “impede, intimidate or improperly influence” the Court constitute a violation of international law.

As an organization comprised primarily of Jewish Americans, our people’s history and our values call us to stand at the forefront of global efforts to deter atrocity crimes. We urge members to reject this legislation and similar efforts that would undermine peace and security.

J Street Issue Brief | The Case Against Sanctioning the International Criminal Court