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Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., called for the United States to join the International Criminal Court in light of Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine, saying that America’s refusal to join is “antithetical to our commitment to human rights.”
The Minnesota Congresswoman, who fled her home country to escape the Somali Civil War when she was 8 years old, introduced bills last week that would also codify the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice and repeal the Hague Invasion Act, which prohibits the United States from assisting the International Criminal Court.
In this April 20, 2021, file photo Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
“Like many of us, I have recoiled in horror at reports of massacres, targeting of civilians, mass graves, and rapes by Russian forces,” Omar said in a statement. “Sadly, the U.S. is not party to the International Criminal Court, the principal body responsible for investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”
The Netherlands-based International Criminal Court was established 20 years ago by an international treaty to prosecute war crimes and other serious offenses.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of war crimes by dozens of countries around the world. (ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
The U.S. has long kept the court at arm’s-length, a position that hardened under the Trump administration.
But now that President Biden has called Putin a “war criminal” and said his invasion of Ukraine amounts to a “genocide,” Omar and other lawmakers say that the U.S. must join the ICC.
“It would be staggeringly hypocritical to support an ICC investigation into Russia, while opposing the court’s very existence as a non-member,” Omar told Insider.
The ICC has opened an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, but Russia, like the United States, is not a member of the court.
As Russian forces pulled back from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, satellite images and journalists cataloged the shocking mass graves and murdered civilians who were left behind.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also cited Russian shelling of “apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances,” as well as “attacks deliberately targeting civilians.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.