US threatens ICC with sanctions

National Security Advisor John Bolton at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, on April 17, 2018.
National Security Advisor John Bolton at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, on April 17, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

It warns the court against trying to prosecute Americans for alleged Afghan war crimes

WASHINGTON • The Trump administration has threatened tough action against the International Criminal Court (ICC) should it try to prosecute Americans for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court," National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday told the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in his first major address since joining President Donald Trump's White House in April.

The US response could include sanctions against ICC judges should such prosecutions proceed, Mr Bolton warned.

The ICC said yesterday it would "continue to do its work undeterred", stressing in a statement that 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.

Mr Bolton added that the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) office in Washington was being ordered closed out of concern over Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.

Mr Bolton said he did not believe the closure of the PLO office in Washington would shut the door on a long-delayed Arab-Israeli peace plan that Mr Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been developing for months.

He said the plan continued to be refined, with an eye towards eventually proposing it.

NO U.S. COOPERATION

We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JOHN BOLTON

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.

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

The Palestinians said they were undeterred from going to the ICC. They deemed the planned PLO mission closure a new pressure tactic by a Trump administration that has slashed funding to a United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees and to hospitals in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as capital of a future state.

"We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying," Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said in a statement. "Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes."

Mr Bolton said the Trump administration will fight back if the ICC proceeds with opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US service members and intelligence professionals during the war in Afghanistan.

"The ICC prosecutor has requested to investigate these Americans for alleged detainee abuse, and perhaps more - an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation," he said.

If such an inquiry goes ahead, the Trump administration will consider banning judges and prosecutors from entering the US, put sanctions on any funds they have in the US financial system and prosecute them in American courts, Mr Bolton said.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us," he said.

In addition, the US may negotiate more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering Americans to The Hague-based court, Mr Bolton said.

The court's aim is to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2018, with the headline 'US threatens ICC with sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe