ICC ‘undeterred’ after US sanctions threat

THE HAGUE, Sept 11, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The International Criminal Court on
Tuesday said its work would continue “undeterred” after Washington threatened
to prosecute its officials if Americans are charged with war crimes committed
in Afghanistan.

The response comes after White House National Security Advisor John Bolton
said the Hague-based court was “already dead to us”.

“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.

And in a further show of support, the Hague-based court’s overseeing body
said it received “strong cooperation and backing” from its 123 member states
as well as from other states, international organisations and civil society.

Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s hardline national security aide, on
Monday threatened to arrest and sanction court officials should they move to
charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.

He called the ICC “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”.

He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli
officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit
quietly,” Bolton said.

The US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on
officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans, he added.

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the
ICC and we certainly 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.”

– ‘Gravest crimes’ –

But in response, the ICC declared itself an “independent and impartial
judicial institution”.

It also stressed that it would only investigate and prosecute crimes “when
the States concerned fail to do so at all or genuinely.”

In a separate statement, the court’s overseeing body, the Assembly of
States Parties (ASP) also pointed out that the ICC “recognises the primary
jurisdiction of States to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes”.

But its president O-Gon Kwon added that the ASP “remains committed to
uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute,
including in particular the judicial independence of the court”.

He said the court was “crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest
crimes under international law”.

The Hague-based ICC was set up in 2002 with jurisdiction to investigate and
prosecute the world’s worst crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes
against humanity.

The court however does not have the capacity to arrest suspects and depends
on member states for their cooperation.

The United States has not signed up to the court and in 2002 Congress
passed a law technically enabling Washington to invade the Netherlands to
liberate any US citizen, should they be held by the court.

Most of its cases have involved crimes in Africa, a point Bolton seized on
when he said that “despite ongoing ICC investigations, atrocities continue to
occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and many
other nations”.