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Rep. Omar Says US Should Join ICC As Biden Calls for Putin War Crimes Trial

  • Ilhan Omar is calling for the US to join the International Criminal Court amid the war in Ukraine.
  • Biden has called for a war crimes investigation into Putin, but the US isn’t a member of the court.
  • “Our refusal to join the court is antithetical to our commitment to human rights,” said Omar.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is calling for the United States to join the International Criminal Court as calls grow for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried as a war criminal amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We are in the company of countries such as Iran, Sudan, China, and, yes, Russia as one of several nations that have refused to sign onto this bedrock of international law,” wrote Omar in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday. “If we oppose investigations into countries, like our own, that haven’t joined the ICC, how can we support an investigation into Russia, another country that hasn’t joined the court?”

omar introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for the United States to join the international body, as well as a bill to repeal the 2002 “Hague Invasion Act” that prohibits the US government from cooperating with the court.

Both measures are co-sponsored by a handful fellow progressive Democrats, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Sara Jacobs and Barbara Lee of California, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

The resolution follows revelations of alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, including the slaughter of civilians in Bucha, a town outside of Kyiv. That led President Joe Biden to suggest that Putin should face a formal trial.

“You saw what happened in Bucha,” Biden told reporters this month. “He is a war criminal. But we have to gather the information.”

Omar, who came to the US as a refugee from Somalia, wrote that the continued reports of atrocities “evokes a traumatic past” for her, and that she remembers “watching armed militias go by my family’s window, hearing bombs go off outside our doors and wondering if our house was next” as an 8-year-old girl.

“Vladimir Putin and anyone responsible must be held accountable,” Omar said in a statement announcing the resolution. “Sadly, the US is not party to the International Criminal Court, the main body responsible for investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”

“Our refusal to join the court is antithetical to our commitment to human rights, accountability, and the rule of law,” she added. “Now is our opportunity to lead the fight against human rights abuses and support international criminal justice.”

Omar, a long-time progressive critic of American foreign policy, recently told to Insider that she believes some of her progressive colleagues have “abandoned their principles of being anti-war” amid the imposition of broad-based sanctions on the Russian population.

In 1998, the United States was one of seven countries — including China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen — to vote against the Rome Statute, which established the court in the first place. President Bill Clinton then signed the Rome Statute in 2000, but it was never ratified in the Senate.

The United States even sanctioned top ICC officials under former President Donald Trump over an investigation into alleged war crimes by US forces in Afghanistan, which Biden later lifted. However, even under Biden, the US has reiterated its resistance to cooperating with the court.

Currently, just 123 countries are parties to the Rome Statutewhile countries including the United States, Russia, China, and Iran are not.

“Our absence also allows regimes to commit human rights abuses with impunity,” wrote Omar. “If the most powerful country won’t hold itself accountable to the rule of law, other countries feel emboldened to violate it.”

Last month, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a resolution in support of Ukraine’s war crimes claim against Russia in the International Criminal Courta measure that ultimately passed.

When asked at the time by Insider about whether America’s fraught history with the court might undermine the credibility of that resolution, Graham said that the court was useful only in certain contexts.

“We have a very robust rule of law system in America,” Graham replied. “Nobody’s above the law. Everybody’s being investigated. You know, President Trump is being investigated by multiple organizations.”

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