International Criminal Court 'undeterred' by U.S. criticisms

By Nicholas Sakelaris   |   Updated Sept. 11, 2018 at 2:17 PM
National security adviser John Bolton called the International Criminal Court "dangerous" and "ineffective" in a speech Monday to the Federalist Society. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court on Tuesday dismissed a spate of criticisms leveled by President Donald Trump's top national security aide, saying it's "undeterred" by the threatening rhetoric.

National security adviser John Bolton blasted the court Monday, calling it "contrary to American principles," "outright dangerous" and "ineffective."

In November, the ICC attempted to prosecute U.S. intelligence agents for war crimes in Afghanistan, action that Bolton said is an "utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation." More recently, the court said it would investigate Israel's housing projects in the West Bank. Adding to the tension, the "State of Palestine" is a recognized member of the court, while the United States and Israel are not.

"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 in a speech to the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarians. "We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and will remember that cooperation when setting U.S. foreign assistance, military assistance and intelligence sharing levels."

Bolton added that the United States will negotiate agreements with countries to prohibit them from surrendering a U.S. citizen to the ICC.

The Hague-based court could face tariffs and prosecution if it continues to threaten U.S. interests, Bolton said.

The ICC, which has 123 member countries, responded Tuesday by saying will it continue "undeterred" by the Trump administration's threats.

"The court's jurisdiction is subject to the primary jurisdiction of states themselves to investigate and prosecute allegations of those crimes and bring justice to the affected communities," the ICC said. "It is only when the states concerned fail to do so at all or genuinely that the ICC will exercise jurisdiction."

President of the Assembly O-Gon Kwon also reaffirmed support Tuesday for the court.

"The Court is non-political and acts strictly within the legal framework of the Rome Statute, its founding treaty," he said. "The Court's mandate is to help put an end to impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole and to bring justice to those affected by such crimes."

ICC judges could be banned from entering the United States while their money will be sanctioned in the U.S. financial system. The same would happen for companies that assist ICC investigations of U.S. citizens.

Bolton added that U.S. officials will work with the United Nations Security Council to limit the court's sweeping powers. He also said the United States will stand Israel and cited the State Department's recent closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington, D.C.

U.S. officials had hoped that having the office would lead to a lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"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," department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The PLO had harsh words following the closure of the Palestinian mission.

"This dangerous escalation shows that the U.S. is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli war crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine, as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region," Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO executive committee member, said in a statement. "It is extremely cruel and spiteful to persist in deliberately bashing the Palestinian people by denying them of their rights, giving away their lands and rightful capital of Jerusalem, and defunding UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees) and Palestinian institutions, including East Jerusalem hospitals."

Under President Bill Clinton, the United States was part of the treaty to establish the ICC. By 2002, though, President George W. Bush withdrew just before the ICC was established. The Obama Administration had better relations with the court, though the United States never formally joined.

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