Bolton threatens sanctions against ICC if it investigates Americans

National Security Advisor John Bolton blasted the International Criminal Court and is threatening sanctions against it, saying the ICC is "all but dead to us."

The ICC has 123 member-states that recognize its authority.  The U.S., Russia, China, and many others do not.

Bolton's remarks were made as the ICC wants to investigate American soldiers for war crimes and other abuses in Afghanistan.  Bolton told the Federalist Society that "[t]he International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests."  He mentioned efforts by the Palestinians to charge Israel with war crimes and crimes against humanity and said the U.S. would use "any means necessary" to protect Americans and citizens of allied countries "from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court." 

Not surprisingly, international human rights groups were outraged.

ABC News:

It was an extraordinary rebuke decried by human rights groups that complained it was another Trump administration rollback of U.S. leadership in demanding accountability for gross abuses.

"Any U.S. action to scuttle ICC inquiries on Afghanistan and Palestine would demonstrate that the administration was more concerned with coddling serial rights abusers – and deflecting scrutiny of U.S. conduct in Afghanistan – than supporting impartial justice," said Human Rights Watch.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, slammed the U.S. opposition on Tuesday.

"The US threatens to impose sanctions on the ICC & even prosecute its judges in American courts.  Where is the outrage?" he wrote on his Twitter account.  "The boorishness of this rogue US regime seems to know no bounds.  When will the international community say enough is enough & force US to act like a normal state?"

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents several people who claim they were detained and tortured in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2008 and could be victims or witnesses in any ICC prosecution, said Bolton's threats were "straight out of an authoritarian playbook."

"This misguided and harmful policy will only further isolate the United States from its closest allies and give solace to war criminals and authoritarian regimes seeking to evade international accountability," the ACLU said.

It should be noted that since the ICC's creation in 2002, the U.S. has never been a member-state and never recognized the authority of the ICC to judge American citizens.  Not even Obama recognized the ICC, although he cooperated with the organization in prosecuting genocide in Darfur.

I wonder why we didn't hear this criticism of American resistance to recognizing the jurisdiction of the ICC when Obama was in office.

The White House issued a strong defense of our position on the ICC, citing American sovereignty and the incredible danger of allowing a supranational court that employs unconstitutional standards of justice to judge American citizens.

After giving a short history of the Rome Statute that authorized the court's creation, the administration summarized its refusal to cooperate with the court in its Afghanistan investigation.

  • If the ICC formally proceeds with opening an investigation, the Trump Administration will consider the following steps:
    • We will negotiate even more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering United States persons to the ICC.
    • To the extent permitted by United States law, we will ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanction their funds in the United States financial system, and, prosecute them in the United States criminal system.
    • We will consider taking steps in the United Nations Security Council to constrain the Court's sweeping powers, including to ensure that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies that have not ratified the Rome Statute.
  • This Administration will fight back to protect American constitutionalism, our sovereignty, and our citizens.  As always, in every decision we make, we will put the interests of the American People first[.]

Every American administration since the court was created has refused to cooperate in any investigation involving the U.S. or our allies.  This proposed investigation by the ICC is in response to heavy criticism and the withdrawal of several African nations, who say the ICC's concentration on mostly African nations is "racist" and unfair when other countries are as guilty as they are.

The ICC's proposed investigation of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan is politically motivated.  But that's just fine with so-called "human rights" groups who are trying to destroy the very concept of national sovereignty in the first place.  If crimes in Afghanistan or Iraq have been committed, the U.S. courts are perfectly capable of prosecuting the offenders.  And if they are members of the armed forces, they will be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with constitutional protections every American is entitled to.

John Bolton and the Trump administration have taken a strong stand against the ICC that is both necessary and morally correct. 

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