International court pushes back on ‘threats’ as it weighs Israel-Hamas arrests

The International Criminal Court (ICC) pushed back against “threats” Friday as it faces intense pressure following reports of possible arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas officials over their conduct in the Oct. 7 attack and war in Gaza that has followed.

A number of pro-Israel U.S. lawmakers and the Biden administration have urged the ICC to refrain from such action, arguing it doesn’t have jurisdiction over Israel. Axios reported Thursday that senators from both parties met with ICC officials over their anxieties about the potential arrest warrants.

“The Office seeks to engage constructively with all stakeholders whenever such dialogue is consistent with its mandate under the Rome Statute to act independently and impartially,” the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said in a Friday statement posted on the social platform X.

“That independence and impartiality are undermined, however, when individuals threaten to retaliate against the Court or against Court personnel should the Office, in fulfillment of its mandate, make decisions about investigations or cases falling within its jurisdiction,” the statement continues.

“Such threats, even when not acted upon, may also constitute an offence against the administration of justice under Art. 70 of the Rome Statute.”

The statement does not name the source of the threats.

The ICC came into force in 2002 under an international statute giving the court jurisdiction over crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. Neither the U.S. nor Israel are among the 123 state members of the court.

Israel’s allies in Washington have pushed back against the possible arrest warrants, which The New York Times reported could relate to Israeli officials “preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip” and for “pursuing an excessively harsh response” following Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7.

“We’ve been really clear about the ICC investigation. We do not support it. We don’t believe that they have the jurisdiction. And I’m just going to leave it there for now,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who chairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added that Israel should not be investigated because it has a “comparable system” of its own.

And Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) argued that prosecutions of Israeli officials could set a precedent for the prosecution of American officials because neither country is a signatory to the court.

“Such a lawless action by the ICC would directly undermine U.S. national security interests,” he said in a statement. “If unchallenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats, and American military personnel, thereby endangering our country’s sovereign authority.”

The White House referred The Hill to comments made by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a press briefing Friday when asked about the ICC’s statement on “threats.”

“So, we obviously oppose any threats or intimidation to public officials that — including ICC officials,” Jean-Pierre said. “So, obviously, we’re going to be always mindful and be very clear about opposing any type of… threats or attempts to intimidate. That is something that you’ll hear from us pretty consistently.”

“But we’ve been clear,” she continued. “I was asked about this — this particular investigation by ICC a couple of days ago. We do not support it. We do not support this investigative probe. We do not believe it’s within their jurisdiction. We’ve been very clear about that. And that obviously still remains.”

Updated 11:57 a.m. ET May 4.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.