US threat­ens to ar­rest ICC judges; court ‘un­de­terred’

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Washington, US - The United States threat­ened on Mon­day to ar­rest and sanc­tion judges and other of­fi­cials of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court if it moves to charge any Amer­i­can who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.

How­ever, the ICC on Tues­day said its work would con­tinue ‘un­de­terred’. “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,” the tribunal said in a state­ment.

White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John 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 recog­nise any higher author­ity than the US Con­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

“This Pres­i­dent will not al­low Amer­i­can cit­i­zens to be pros­e­cuted by for­eign bu­reau­crats, and he will not al­low other na­tions to dic­tate our means of self-de­fence.”

He also con­demned the court’s record since it for­mally started up in 2002, and ar­gued that most ma­jor na­tions had not joined.

He said it had at­tained just eight con­vic­tions de­spite spend­ing more than $1.5bn, and said that had not stemmed atroc­i­ties around the world.

“In fact, de­spite on­go­ing ICC in­ves­ti­ga­tions, atroc­i­ties con­tinue to oc­cur in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, Su­dan, Libya, Syria, and many other na­tions,” he added.

Bolton was strongly crit­i­cised by rights groups. Liz Even­son, as­so­ciate in­ter­na­tional jus­tice di­rec­tor at Hu­man Rights Watch, said Bolton's threats ‘show cal­lous dis­re­gard for vic­tims of atroc­ity crimes’.

“The slaugh­ter of civil­ians in Syria, Myan­mar and else­where shows the ICC is needed more than ever to act where it can,” Even­son added.

She said a move to block the com­plaints against US sol­diers in Afghanistan and against Is­rael would show the US ‘more con­cerned with cod­dling se­rial rights abusers...than sup­port­ing im­par­tial jus­tice’.


US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor, John Bolton, speaks to the Fed­er­al­ist So­ci­ety in Washington DC on Tues­day

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