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US War Criminals Again Threaten the ICC If It Tries To Do Its Job

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US War Criminals Again Threaten the ICC If It Tries To Do Its Job

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated 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.

“I think that the ICC and the world will see that we are determined to prevent having Americans and our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere hauled in by this corrupt ICC”, Pompeo stated, according to Ynetnews.com.

Pompeo added 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.”

Pompeo argued that as Israel and the US have never ratified the establishing document of the ICC, the Rome Statute, they and their citizens are not subject to ICC prosecution.

While technically Pompeo is correct, the ICC could start a probe into allegations about war crimes committed during the war in Afghanistan due to the country being a member of the international tribunal. The case was approved on 5 March 2020 after a long delay. The ICC cannot prosecute American soldiers as long as they remain citizens of a state that has not ratified the Rome Statute, unless the UN Security Council refers the case to it.

The prosecutor, reviewing the allegations of Israeli crimes on the territory of the West Bank, in turn, admitted that the case was complicated due to the ambiguous status of the territory in question. While the UN considers it occupied, Israel exercises de facto control over the area and is preparing to extend its laws on the territory. Regardless of that, the prosecutor chose to proceed with the case, which was referred to the ICC by the Palestinian Authority.

The US was a signatory to the Rome Statute, but later announced that it would not ratify the agreement and withdrew its signature, which obliges the country not to undermine the object and purpose of the treaty establishing the ICC.

While under the Bush administration Washington opposed cooperating with the ICC, the situation changed under President Barack Obama, who decided to reconsider relations with the ICC. However, the positive trend in bilateral ties ended with the arrival of the Trump administration, which has vehemently opposed prosecuting not only American soldiers, but also Washington’s Israeli allies.

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton stated in 2018 that the US would do anything to “protect [its] citizens” and threatened the ICC and its staff with sanctioning their funds in the US and prosecution, including anyone who helps the ICC, under US law. The international tribunal responded that it would continue investigating war crimes, regardless of Trump’s threats.

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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