United States threatens to arrest ICC judges who probe war crimes

Clay Curtis
September 11, 2018

United States national security adviser John Bolton on Monday, September 10, said the U.S. would use any available means to cushion its nationals from ICC terming it as an illegitimate institution.

The first was ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request a year ago for a full investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, which would include any committed by United States military and intelligence officials.

The United States will withdraw all support from the International Criminal Court, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced Monday, condemning the body as an "assault" on the U.S. Constitution and American sovereignty.

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in 2002, but the United States did not ratify it as President George W Bush opposed the body. The organization opened the office in 1994 and went on to join the ICC after receiving observer state status at the United Nations in 2012. "Palestinian are disappointed. They have been let down by their occupation, the worldwide community, and their own leaders".

"We can see it in the rhetoric already, the administration saying they are not committed to the peace process", he said.

Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said the United States would not "sit quietly" if the ICC came after it, Israel, or other USA allies.

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

The PLO denounced the decision to close its Washington offices.

Israel - which like the U.S. has never ratified the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute - dismissed the move as a "cynical step without legal validity".

Set up in 2002, the court was meant to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the global court to investigate and prosecute Israeli officials for "their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people".

The Trump administration signaled on Sunday that Bolton would announce action against the ICC over its stated desire to investigate allegations of misconduct against us troops and Central Intelligence Agency operatives in Afghanistan.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the office closure was "yet another affirmation of the Trump administration's policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people". He also said the USA would consider restrictions against ICC lawyers or officials involved in efforts to investigate Americans.

Israel welcomed the Trump administration's move and accused the Palestinians of seeing the court as a way of sidestepping US-sponsored bilateral talks.

The court is now considering prosecuting U.S. servicemen over alleged detainee abuse in Afghanistan.

The move comes after Palestinian officials urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli officials for "war crimes" throughout the region.

It also stressed that it would only investigate and prosecute crimes when the states will not or cannot do so. The U.S. Congress said in 2015-before Donald Trump became President-that the Secretary of State was required to certify that the PLO wasn't trying to use the ICC against Israel.

Under the administration of President Barack Obama, Washington cooperated more with the court.

John Bolton on Monday, September 10, said the USA would use any available means to cushion its nationals from ICC terming it as an illegitimate institution.

Palestinians have reacted with dismay to the US funding cuts, warning they could lead to more poverty and anger, which are among the factors stoking their decades of conflict with Israel.

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