The International Court of Justice in The Hague heard a landmark case Jan. 11–12, in which the government of South Africa accused Israel of genocide in its assault on the civilian population of Gaza. (See EIR, Jan. 19, 2024, “South Africa’s Charge of Genocide in Gaza Is Heard at the World Court.”)
U.S. President Joe Biden is now facing a related legal case, charged with “failure to prevent—and complicity in—the genocide” of Palestinians in Gaza; the case is to be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Jan. 26. Also charged are his collaborators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The suit has been brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
The Center for Constitutional Rights
The New York-based CCR was founded in 1966 by Arthur Kinoy, William Kunstler and others to facilitate legal action in support of civil rights legislation and progressive causes. The Center is known in particular for Habib v. Bush, its successful suit in 2004 to establish the right of detainees in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to challenge their status in U.S. courts and gain legal representation. It has in turn provided representation to people imprisoned there, gaining release for many detainees.
The CCR stated on Jan. 9:
We expect the International Court of Justice to find that South Africa’s comprehensive application, detailing Israel’s genocidal actions, meets the standards to issue provisional measures for Israel to end the military assault on Gaza and desist from killing, forcibly displacing, and denying basic necessities of life to Palestinians in Gaza—in effect, ordering measures to stop an unfolding genocide….
Any findings by the ICJ against Israel will have implications for other State parties—including the U.S.—who have failed to prevent or have been complicit in the genocide, which the Genocide Convention prohibits. We expect the U.S. District Court will take very seriously any findings from the ICJ—the World Court—in determining the U.S.’s obligations under international and U.S. law....
Earlier, CCR staff attorney Astha Sharma Pokharel had explained:
While the District Court is obviously not bound by the ICJ, it will have to, and the government will have to, contend with the fact that the highest authority, the World Court, has issued an order in which it has found that the case of genocide—there’s a plausible case. It will have implications for the United States around both its failure to prevent this genocide and for its complicity.
Seventy-seven legal and human rights NGOs, from locations as far-flung as Ireland, Bahrain, and Indonesia, have submitted a 42-page brief as amici curiae, friends of the court, supporting the CCR’s suit. Their brief concludes:
This case is of exceptional importance, for the gravity of the harms involved, the compelling need to prevent and protect against genocide, and for what is at stake in terms of maintaining well-established norms of international law....
Another amicus brief has been submitted by medical professionals, in response to Israel’s systematic destruction of Gaza’s health sector.
Response from the Biden Administration
Biden’s legal team contends that the District Court has no jurisdiction over U.S. foreign policy decisions. But genocide is scarcely within the bounds of foreign policy. A decision by the ICJ against the state of Israel will, itself, have very significant political repercussions, putting the United States very much at odds with world opinion at a time when American neocons are frantically trying to stem the rising tide of the influence of the BRICS nations.
On Nov. 3, the U.S. National Lawyers Guild, Palestine Legal, and the CRR delivered a Notice and Demand Letter to all U.S. Senators and Congressmen, as they were considering President Biden’s request for financial aid and weaponry for Israel, warning them of their possible complicity in genocide. It read, in part:
Please take notice that should you vote in favor of that package, you risk facing criminal and civil liability for aiding and abetting genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity under international law, and may face investigation and prosecution....
At a Nov. 6, 2023 State Department press briefing, a reporter read the warning issued to the Representatives and then asked Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel: “Do members of the State Department face similar possibilities?” Patel answered: