America puts war crimes court on the defensive

London, The International Criminal Court in The Hague has come out in defence of its role in the wake of a sustained attack on the institution on Monday by US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

Mr Bolton said the US would not allow the ICC to undertake a formal investigation of alleged war crimes committed by American soldiers during the war in Afghanistan.

Any day now, the ICC may announce the start of a formal investigation…, he said in a speech to the Federalist Society in Washington, DC.

The ICC prosecutor has requested to investigate these Americans for alleged detainee abuse, and perhaps more an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.

The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.

We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We 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, Mr Bolton added.

The ICC reacted by saying on Tuesday that it was an independent and impartial judicial institution.

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 US is not a member of the Rome Statute of the ICC but the court can intervene if Americans are accused of committing war crimes in a country that has signed the Statute.

The ICC statement said 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.

It is only when the states concerned fail to do so at all or genuinely cannot prosecute that the ICC will exercise jurisdiction.

But Mr Bolton, however, stated that the ICC was created as a free-wheeling global organisation claiming jurisdiction over individuals without their consent.

As we know, the ICC already claims authority over crimes committed in States Parties, even if the accused are not from nations that have acquiesced to the Rome Statute.

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, Mr Bolton added.

He said that the ICC’s authority has been sharply criticised and rejected by most of the world.

Today, more than 70 nations, representing two-thirds of the world’s population, and over 70 per cent of the world’s armed forces, are not members of the ICC.

Several African nations have recently withdrawn or threatened to withdraw their membership, citing the disproportionate number of arrest warrants against Africans.

To them, the ICC is just the latest European neo-colonial enterprise to infringe upon their sovereign rights.

A human rights lawyer in London told the GNA that Mr Bolton’s apparent support for African countries’ dispute with the ICC would encourage them to continue to argue that the institution was biased against the continent.

I don’t think Bolton got it right by seemingly backing African opposition to the ICC while, at the same time, discrediting America’s European allies.

The ICC said the court was an instrument to ensure accountability for crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.

Source: Ghana News Agency