The United States launched a blistering verbal attack on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and threatened sanctions against its judges if they proceed with a probe into alleged war crimes by Americans in Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump‘s national security adviser, John Bolton, made the announcement in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in Washington, DC, on Monday.
“Today, on the eve of September 11th, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president. 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 will certainly 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.”
Crimes in Afghanistan?
Established in 2002 under the Rome Statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
More than 120 countries around the world are members, but superpowers – including the United States, Russia and China – have not signed up.
On the ICC, Bolton said if any investigations go ahead on alleged American war crimes, the Trump administration will consider banning judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, put sanctions on any funds they have in the US financial system, and prosecute them in US courts.
The court “has been ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed outright dangerous”, he said.
It was Bolton’s first major address since joining the Trump administration. He was previously the US’ ambassador to the UN in the George W Bush government and fought against the ICC in the 2000s.
“The International Criminal Court constituted an assault on the constitutional rights of the American people and the sovereignty of the United States,” he said.
“At President Bush’s direction, we next launched a global diplomatic campaign to protect Americans from being delivered into the ICC’s hands. We negotiated about 100 binding, bilateral agreements to prevent other countries from delivering US personnel to the ICC. It remains one of my proudest achievements.”
There was no immediate response from ICC officials or member states.
Bolton also announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, DC, because of the Palestinian attempt to get the ICC to investigate Israel for crimes committed during its decades-old occupation of Palestine.
The national security adviser’s announcement drew applause from the conservative crowd.
The action against the PLO is the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration against the Palestinian leadership.