Biden Tries to Evade Legal Responsibility for Failure to Prevent – and Complicity in – Israel’s Genocide in Gaza

Response to lawsuit by Palestinians comes as United Nations marks 75th anniversary of the Genocide Convention 

December 9, 2023, New York – After the U.S. government’s response late yesterday in the
genocide case brought by Palestinian organizations and individuals, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement: 

The U.S. government’s filing came hours after it vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. The U.S. government’s filing is no less disappointing for being predictable. President Biden, Secretary Blinken, and Secretary Austin are attempting to evade legal responsibility for their failure to prevent – and their complicity in – Israel’s unfolding genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Their lawyers focus on jurisdictional issues rather than the substance of the lawsuit, which was brought by Palestinian human rights groups, Palestinians who live in Gaza, and Palestinians in the U.S. with family members who live in Gaza. On their behalf, we are seeking an emergency court order to halt U.S. support for Israel’s unrelenting assault and brutal siege. The complaint presents extensive and powerful evidence that Israel is committing genocide: acting on clearly articulated genocidal intent, Israel’s political leaders are overseeing and escalating a military campaign that is targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure and denying all residents of Gaza food, water, and other necessities. Since October 7, Israel has killed more than 21,000 people in Gaza, including more than 6,500 children. In fact, Israel is killing children at a rate unseen anywhere in the world in recent years. Both the Red Cross and the United Nations report that there is no safe place for civilians in Gaza. Israel could not be conducting this genocidal campaign without the unconditional diplomatic and military support of the United States. The United States boasts about its close coordination with Israel, yet in its filing, it attempts to evade responsibility by underscoring Israel’s independence.

The government’s response is all the more notable because of its timing. Today is the 75th Anniversary of the Genocide Convention, the world’s first human rights treaty, which the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted in 1948 in response to the horror of the Holocaust. The treaty defines genocide as acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group” and obligates states to prevent it. In his declaration submitted in support of the lawsuit, Williams Schabas, widely regarded as the world’s leading legal expert on genocide, says the United States was obligated to use its considerable influence over Israel to prevent genocide the instant it became aware there was a risk of it taking place. President Biden and other high-level officials  have not only failed to prevent genocide, they have abetted it, in violation of the Genocide Convention and customary international law. 

The case proceeds. The Center for Constitutional Rights pursues it with urgency on behalf of our clients, who, along with millions of others, are enduring the devastating effects of Israel’s rampage. U.S. government leaders have the power and therefore the legal responsibility to stop the genocide. The court has the authority to force them to do so. If powerful countries are not held to their human rights obligations to prevent genocide, the law is meaningless.

Marc Van Der Hout and Johnny Sinodis of Van Der Hout LLP are co-counsel in the case. For more information, see the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

December 11, 2023