The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it will “continue to do its work undeterred,” after US National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened sanctions if the tribunal investigates alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.
The Hague-based court investigates genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes and is backed by 123 countries – but not by China and the US.
“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,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.
The tribunal’s remarks came in response to a scathing verbal attack launched by Bolton in Washington DC on Monday during a speech to the conservative Federalist Society.
“Today, on the eve of September 11th, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president,” Bolton began, before launching into the blistering offensive against the ICC.
“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 let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”
Bolton then issued a very clear threat: If the international court continues to pursue the probe, Washington will ban ICC judges from entering the country, prosecute them and sanction their funding. His main objection is the notion that the ICC could have higher authority than the US constitution and US sovereignty.
“In secular terms we don’t recognize any higher authority than the US constitution,” he said, adding that Trump “will not allow American citizens to be prosecuted by foreign bureaucrats, and he will not allow other nations to dictate our means of self defence.”
In November 2017, an ICC prosecutor requested approval to launch a probe into potential war crimes by the US armed forces and the CIA through the torture of detainees in Afghanistan.
However, Bolton didn’t come out swinging solely on the behalf of the US – he also attacked the ICC’s threat to Washington’s “friend and ally” Israel, as the Middle Eastern country faces an investigation into alleged war crimes against Palestinians.
Bolton said the probe into the actions of Israel, which he described as a “liberal, democratic nation,” was unacceptable, and added that any countries supporting the investigation and cooperating with the ICC would be subject to secondary sanctions.