Lawmakers urge sanctions on International Court of Justice president

Nine bipartisan House members said ICJ Judge Nawaf Salam is biased against Israel and cannot be a fair arbiter in Israel-related cases


Nawaf Salam (R), President of the Court, gestures during a hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, on February 21, 2024.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers urged the State Department on Thursday to consider placing sanctions on the recently elected president of the International Court of Justice over his alleged anti-Israel bias if he does not recuse himself from the two Israel-related cases before the court.

“Judge [Nawaf] Salam’s clear and well-documented record of bias against the Jewish state and persistent violations of the ICJ charter make it abundantly clear that he will not be a fair and neutral arbiter in these cases,” nine lawmakers said in a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Thursday, calling the Lebanese jurist “wholly unfit” to hear the cases.

Salam, the letter notes, was Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations for a decade, during which time he voted against Israel on numerous issues and posted statements criticizing Israel. It also notes that he finished second in Lebanon’s prime ministership elections in 2019 and 2022, while he was on the court, which the letter describes as another breach of ICJ rules, although it acknowledges he was never a formally declared candidate.

The lawmakers said Salam is violating the charter by refusing to recuse himself from the Israel-related cases. They said his continued participation in ICJ rulings on Israel “underscor[es] the need for further action to secure Judge Salam’s recusal in compliance with the ICJ charter.” They called on the administration to restrict his travel to the U.S. and explore other sanctions if he does not recuse himself.

The letter also criticizes the ICJ cases against Israel more broadly, warning “one or more politically-motivated rulings against Israel will set a precedent that poses an international challenge to all states’ legitimate defense against terrorism” and threaten potential prospects for peace.

The letter was signed by Reps. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Keith Self (R-TX), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Bill Posey (R-FL), Neal Dunn (R-FL) and Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY).

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.