The White House authorized economic sanctions against members of the International Criminal Court on Thursday 11 May over what officials say are politically motivated investigations into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
International Criminal Court officials directly engaged in any effort to investigate or prosecute American military personnel will also be barred from entering the US, the White House press secretary said in a statement. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on the matter this week, calling the threat the international court poses to US personnel ‘a national emergency’.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr, addressed the investigation into U.S. troops’ alleged crimes in Afghanistan on Thursday. The US has never accepted the court’s jurisdiction over its military personnel, Esper said:
“Our nation and this administration will not allow American citizens who have served our country to be subjected to illegitimate investigations… Instead, we expect information about alleged misconduct by our people to be turned over to U.S. authorities so that we could take the appropriate action, as we have consistently done so in the past…
Rest assured that the men and women of the United States Armed Forces will never appear before the ICC and nor will they ever be subjected to the judgments of unaccountable international bodies. LINK
A March International Criminal Court ruling allowed an investigation into possible wrongdoing by U.S. troops in Afghanistan to begin, a move that The New York Times reported “infuriated the Trump administration.” The court investigates and tries people over allegations of genocide, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity.
The court’s top prosecutor in 2017 said there is enough information to provide a “reasonable basis” that American service members and CIA officials “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.” The probe is also investigating possible crimes committed by members of the Afghan government and Taliban.
The March ruling that allowed the court to proceed with the investigation marked the first time US forces faced the possibility of becoming defendants in a war-crimes prosecution by the ICC, according to The New York Times.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had recently foreshadowed the move, stating that the US will go to great lengths to prevent any attempt by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Americans and Israelis on two separate criminal cases related to the seventeen-year US War in Afghanistan and Israeli actions on the territory of the West Bank. Pompeo declared that the Trump administration would address the matter in the near future, and promised US efforts to stop the ICC trials.
“And now this court has become corrupted and is attempting to go after the young men and women of the United States of America who fought so hard […] And they think that the ICC ought to be able to haul these young men and women in. We will never let that happen. We’re working along many fronts to prevent it from happening.”
In March of this year Pompeo, who previously served as director of the CIA, took the denunciations a step further, threatening the family members of ICC staff.
“We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States or engage in activity that’s inconsistent with making sure we protect Americans,” Pompeo said, according to the US State Department’s official transcript.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the managing director for research and policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, drew attention to the “shocking attack” on Twitter.
“This isn’t just unlawful collective punishment against family members; it’s not just a disturbing attack on staff of a judiciary — where the US has voted to refer other nations for prosecution; it’s abuse of federal authority to use sanctions against actual wrongdoers.”
Whitson called on Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to “condemn this US State Department assault on the staff and FAMILIES of ICC – abuse of sanctions authority in flagrant attack on judicial independence, unlawful collective punishment.” LINK
This blatant US threat against the family members of International Criminal Court prosecutors is part of a longer historical pattern of Washington attacking multilateral institutions.
At the beginning of the George W. Bush administration’s so-called war on terror, in 2002, the US Congress passed a bill called the American Service-Members’ Protection Act — more commonly known as the “Hague Invasion Act.”
This unprecedented piece of legislation declares that the US government unilaterally grants itself the right to militarily invade the Hague if a citizen of the United States or any allied country is prosecuted by the court.
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