U.S. Declares War-Crimes Court to Be ‘Illegitimate,’ Threatens Sanctions

September 10, 2018 Updated: September 11, 2018

The White House issued a severe rebuke to the International Criminal Court on Sept. 10 and threatened to retaliate if the supranational body’s personnel and abettors prosecute citizens of the United States or its allies.

In announcing the new policy toward the ICC, national security adviser John Bolton cited the court’s November 2017 request to prosecute American armed-service members and intelligence personnel for alleged war crimes committed during the conflict in Afghanistan.

The United States isn’t a party to the ICC, and Congress granted authority to U.S. presidents in 2002 to use any means necessary, including the use of force, to protect U.S. citizens from prosecution by the court. The court is nevertheless expected to soon announce its intention to prosecute Americans, according to Bolton.

“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.

The national security adviser outlined a list of harsh retaliatory measures if the ICC decides to pursue prosecution: Court personnel would be banned from traveling to the United States, slapped with financial sanctions, and prosecuted by the Justice Department.

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

The United States will enact a similar punishment on any company or state that assists the ICC. Under the new stance, countries that aid the court could see reductions in aid and intelligence sharing.

The ICC began operating in 2002 with the theoretical purpose of prosecuting war crimes and human-rights atrocities. But in practice, according to Bolton, the court’s biggest supporters have used it as a tool to constrain the United States.

Bolton also cited Palestinian attempts to start an ICC investigation of Israel, and linked the new policy toward the court with an order by the State Department to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington.

The United States had permitted the PLO to maintain an office in Washington as part of an effort to broker a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. The PLO hasn’t cooperated in the talks while pushing prosecution against Jerusalem with the ICC, prompting the order to shutter its offices.

“The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for the State Department, said in a statement. “To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The PLO responded by accusing the United States of banding with Israel against the Palestinians to the detriment of the peace process.

“The U.S. would do better to finally understand that the Palestinians will not surrender and that no amount of coercion or unwarranted collective punitive measures will bring the Palestinian leadership or people to their knees,” PLO executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

In rejecting the legitimacy of the war-crimes court, the White House is further dismantling the globalist legacy of President Barack Obama. Washington began cooperating with the ICC after Obama took office and supported the court’s prosecutions.

The Trump administration has exited three of Obama’s signature global-governance achievements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Paris agreement, and the Iran deal. President Donald Trump, who blasted those deals as detrimental to American interests, has also moved to quit the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the United States rejoined in 2009 after Obama took office.

“America is a sovereign Nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens,” Trump said in a statement that accompanied the censure of the ICC.

Bolton outlined a comprehensive critique of the court’s structure, authority, and effectiveness.

While wielding the purported authority to prosecute U.S. citizens, the court combines prosecutorial and judicial powers, and lacks the checks and balances enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, there is no mechanism to hold the court accountable, with countries such as Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo holding votes.

The court has burned through $1.5 billion in funding and secured only eight convictions since its inception. The body is also riddled with recent allegations of corruption. The first prosecutor attempted to shield a government official from prosecution, helped a businessman linked to violations in Libya, and gave confidential court documents to actress Angelina Jolie, who holds an honorary UN human-rights post.

There has also been talk of adding “ecocide” to the list of crimes the court can prosecute, a move seen by Bolton as part of an unspoken agenda to intimidate decisionmakers in the United States and other democratic societies.

“The next obvious step is to claim complete, universal jurisdiction: the ability to prosecute anyone, anywhere for vague crimes identified by The Hague’s bureaucrats,” Bolton said.

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