ICC says it is undeterred after US issues threat to war crimes court

200 views
US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Monday. — AFP

THE HAGUE/WASHINGTON — The International Criminal Court said on Tuesday it would “continue to do its work undeterred” a day after US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions if the tribunal investigated US activities in Afghanistan.

The Hague-based court said in a statement it was an independent and impartial institution with the backing of 123 countries.

“The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law,” it said.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last year there was a “reasonable basis to believe” war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in Afghanistan and that all sides in the conflict would be examined, including members of the US armed forces and Central Intelligence Agency.

Bolton said on Monday that if such an investigation was launched, the Trump administration would consider banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanctioning funds they have there and prosecuting them in US courts.

Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” Bolton said.

He said the US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans.

“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system,” Bolton said.

“We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

Bolton made the comments in a speech in Washington to the Federalist Society, a powerful association of legal conservatives.

Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor’s request in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.

Neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC’s Rome Statute has requested an investigation, Bolton said.

He said the ICC could formally open the investigation “any day now.”

He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton said.

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.”

The ICC defended itself, noting it has the support of 123 member states and that even the United Nations Security Council has found it valuable, asking it in 2005 to investigate genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

“The ICC, as a judicial institution, acts strictly within the legal framework of the Rome Statute and is committed to the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate,” it said in a statement.

Bolton said the main objection of President Donald Trump’s administration is to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution and US sovereignty.

“In secular terms, we don’t recognize any higher authority than the US Constitution,” he said. — Agencies


200 views