Sen. Ted Cruz is aiming to dramatically curtail the power of the International Criminal Court, The Daily Beast has learned. The Texas Republican is working to garner support for a resolution that would call on the UN Security Council to bar the ICC from bringing charges against people from states who aren’t parties to the treaty that governs it—which would include Russia, China, the U.S., and Israel.
The resolution would also condemn the court for investigating American soldiers and Israeli officials, per a Republican aide familiar with Cruz’s outreach. Cruz has indicated that he expects bipartisan support for the effort, the aide said. One human rights expert said Moscow and Beijing would also likely welcome the effort. Trump administration officials—notably Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—have also lambasted the court.
Cruz laid out his strategy in a closed-door meeting with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) activists on Capitol Hill earlier this week, the aide said. In the meeting, Cruz said he expected Russia and China to support the proposed UN Security Council resolution because they also worry the court could target their citizens. Cruz also told the group that he expected British and French diplomats to be open to the effort out of concerns about the court’s legitimacy.
“The United States will not sit idly by while unaccountable political operatives convene kangaroo courts in foreign countries to prosecute and persecute American soldiers and the soldiers of our allies,” the senator said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “I will work with my colleagues and the Trump administration on measures aimed at countering this decision, including and especially through a United Nations Security Council resolution that would prohibit the ICC from prosecuting the nationals of non-member states.”
The effort comes after the court greenlit a move by its top prosecutor to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan—including crimes potentially committed by American perpetrators.
A treaty called the Rome Statute, agreed to in 1998, established the court to hear cases against people charged with genocide, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity. More than 100 countries are party to the treaty; the U.S., Israel, Russia, and China are not.
In December 2019, the court’s top prosecutor announced she would investigate potential war crimes committed by Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Cruz pointed to the investigation in remarks at the AIPAC conference in Washington last week, calling the court “one of the most profound threats to Israel.”
Daniel Balson, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia, told The Daily Beast that authoritarian governments will likely cheer the move.
“The hostility to the ICC evinced by the Trump Administration and its allies may be welcomed by governments in Moscow and Beijing but it is a minority view around the world,” Balson said. “Most UN member states have taken the considered decision to join the court. In seeking to leverage the UN Security Council against the ICC, Sen. Cruz believes he’s asserting American sovereignty. In reality, he’s expressing contempt for both international law and the sovereignty of others.”
And Laurel Miller, Asia Director for the International Crisis Group and formerly the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told The Daily Beast that Cruz’s plan sounded infeasible.
“That doesn’t sound very plausible to me,” she said. “If the U.S. could have achieved something like that, it would have done so much sooner.”
“The U.S. has been opposed to the idea of the ICC being able to assert jurisdiction over Americans for many years, and during the Bush administration there was a big effort spearheaded by John Bolton in the State Department to get countries to promise not to hand over Americans,” she added. “If there was some other kind of legal maneuver like this available, I strongly suspect it would have been exploited before now.”