National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Photo: AP

U.S. denounces legitimacy of International Criminal Court


America's long-running reluctant relationship with the International Criminal Court came to a crashing halt on Monday as decades of U.S. suspicions about the tribunal and its global jurisdiction spilled into open hostility, amid threats of sanctions if it investigates U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

National security adviser John Bolton denounced the legitimacy of The Hague-based court, which was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes of humanity and genocide in areas where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. It has 123 state parties that recognize its jurisdiction.

Bolton's speech, on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, came as an ICC judge was expected to soon announce a decision on a request from prosecutors to formally open an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by Afghan national security forces, Taliban and Haqqani network militants, and U.S. forces and intelligence in Afghanistan since May 2003. The accusations against U.S. personnel include torture and illegal imprisonment.

"The International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests," Bolton told the Federalist Society, a conservative Washington-based think tank. Bolton also took aim at Palestinian efforts to press war crime charges against Israel for its policies in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

He said the U.S. would use "any means necessary" to protect Americans and citizens of allied countries, like Israel, "from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court." The White House said that to the extent permitted by U.S. law, the Trump administration would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system and prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC," Bolton said, adding that "for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."

It was an extraordinary rebuke decried by human rights groups who 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.

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.

The ICC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since its creation, the court has filed charges against dozens of suspects including former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed by rebels before he could be arrested, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of charges including genocide in Darfur. Al-Bashir remains at large, as does Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, who was among the first rebels charged by the court in 2005. The court has convicted just eight defendants.

The court has been hobbled by the refusal of the U.S., Russia, China and other major nations to join. Others have quit: Burundi and the Philippines, whose departure, announced earlier this year, takes effect next March.

The Clinton administration in 2000 signed the Rome Statute that created the ICC but had serious reservations about the scope of the court's jurisdiction and never submitted it for ratification to the Senate, where there was broad bipartisan opposition to what lawmakers saw as a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, his administration promoted and passed the American Service Members Protection Act, which sought to immunize U.S. troops from potential prosecution by the ICC. In 2002, Bolton, then a State Department official, traveled to New York to ceremonially "unsign" the Rome Statute at the United Nations.

Bush's first administration then embarked on a diplomatic drive to get countries who were members of the ICC to sign so-called Article 98 agreements that would bar those nations from prosecuting Americans before the court under penalty of sanctions. The administration was largely successful in its effort, getting more than 100 countries to sign the agreements. Some of those, however, have not been formally ratified.

In Bush's second term, the U.S. attitude toward the ICC shifted slightly as the world looked on in horror at genocide being committed in Sudan's western Darfur region. The administration did not oppose and offered limited assistance to an ICC investigation in Darfur.

The Obama administration expanded that cooperation, offering additional support to the ICC as it investigated the then-Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army and its top leadership, including Kony.

On Monday, Bolton effectively turned Washington's back on the court, accusing it of corruption and inefficiency. Above all, he took aim at the court's view that citizens of nonmember states are subject to its jurisdiction.

"The ICC is an unprecedented effort to vest power in a supranational body without the consent of either nation-states or the individuals over which it purports to exercise jurisdiction," Bolton said. "It certainly has no consent whatsoever from the United States."

© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

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There is nothing new here, Bush's 2002 American Service Members Protection Act authorized 'the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court'

1 ( +1 / -0 )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

agree @ u_s__reamer don't forget Laos and Cambodia. Read William Blum Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. ( indicates successful ouster of a government) *

1 ( +1 / -0 )

disgusting. karma's coming though, watch the news tomorrow.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The USA knows how to make rules for others to obey but deems it is always exempted from any such tribunals.

That's the definition of a superpower.

That's right. And if the US had less power, they would be called a rogue nation.

Funnily enough, I agree that the US should not submit to any politicized international tribunal, nor should any other country. Yet, at the same time, the US needs to stop imposing its version of laws on other sovereign states.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Is this Bolton? Trump? US mind frame?


-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The USA knows how to make rules for others to obey but deems it is always exempted from any such tribunals.

That's the definition of a superpower.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The USA knows how to make rules for others to obey but seems it is always exempted from any such tribunals.

That's the definition of a superpower.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'd be fine if those giving the orders, including Presidents, were indicted too.

That happens already. Both Presidents Slobodan Milosevic (Serbia) and Franjo Tudjman (Croatia) were indicted over the Balkan Wars - Milosevic died during his trial, Tudjman died before his trial could even start. Charles Taylor of Sierra Leone was indicted and got 50 years jail, Paul Kagame of Rwanda is under investigation. I'm sure there are others. These were either the leaders of their countries or important players in their civil wars, rather than those who went around killing people personally.

Maybe that's the biggest problem for the leaders of countries such as the US or the UK - the fear that they could be prosecuted for leading governments whose actions lead to massive numbers of civilian deaths such as happened in Vietnam or Iraq.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well, the US says they ll quit WTO when faced with trials for breaking rules of the organization.There was something about the UN,too. Now they do not recognize Criminal Court..

Since many international organizations were established using lots of the US funding after the WW2, maybe its the time for the world to rebuild those organizations to be really independent and representative of the nations? So no one could use the strategy'Vote as I told you or I ll cut your funding'.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Vietnam was Amerika’s greatest war crime. There was no Nuremberg-style trial for the political and military leadership that attacked and left behind 5 million dead and wounded. As a result of this enormity and the impunity that followed, American leaders have arrogantly and shamelessly continued to commit crimes against humanity ever since. The world must find a deterrent to this never-ending aggression.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

When it comes to war crimes prosecutions under international law, it's always been one law for the big countries and another for the small. Fine for international courts and tribunals to go ahead and prosecute cases in Rwanda or Serbia - countries that don't matter in the global scheme of things - but quite another to try prosecuting anyone in the UK (like Tony Blair) or the US. And since the US isn't even a signatory to the ICC, forget it.

The most interesting thing here is the extent of the retaliations Bolton is threatening, and his utter dismissiveness of the notion that any other country should have jurisdiction over the US. If that's the case, then why should there be any supranational body with jurisdiction over anyone?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The next time the cops haul you in, insult them and tell them that they have no authority over you. See how it works out. Most of the citizens of the US and the rest of the countries of world other than Russia denounce the legitimacy of the elections that brought Trump to office.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Is this Bolton? Trump? US mind frame?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Folks the US has been against the ICC since it started, this dimwit bolton is only continuing a mistake, bottom line is the big powerful countries, US China Russia should ALL fall under ICC.

Sad FACT is they just DONT want have to do right, they reserve the "right" to be NASTY & sometimes they are!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The U.S needs to be held to account just the same as any other country who has a habit of invading and destroying.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

If there is proof of atrocities, show them to the world. That will force US action. The people will demand it if the proof is strong enough.

I'd be fine if those giving the orders, including Presidents, were indicted too. "Enhanced interrogation" should never have been allowed and the people in the US govt who ok'd it should see some jail time.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

He said the U.S. would use "any means necessary" to protect Americans and citizens of allied countries, like Israel, "from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. Nonsense - US does nothing to protect Americans from the illegitimate courts of Japan.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Only intellectually deficient people that think and write like 7 year olds love Bolton.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Alfie, Bintaro, Cricky, Silvafan-

Excellent posts!! Alfie, I don't know how you manage to find such wonderful links but thank you. Your links have taught me alot

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Im speaking to the liberals and conservatives. How long did you expect the charade to continue? How long did you expect the world to turn a blind eye to the attrocities committed by america and it's 'allies'? This particular turn of events is welcome. Trump, love him or hate him has brought to the front the real personality of the country. The mask's fallen off for all to see the hypocrisy that's riddled it since it's beginning.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

The US thinking it can do what it wants without consequences once again.

And then they don't understand why half the world hates them.

Rogue state, for sure.

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The court has been hobbled by the refusal of the U.S., Russia, China and other major nations to join.

so it’s news that we are not cooperating with a group we have never been a member of?

Or did Obama sign us up for this too? The article doesn’t say he did just that he cooperated more then others may have.

-16 ( +3 / -19 )

David Scheffer, who established the ICC on behalf of the US and served as the country’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said: “The Bolton speech today isolates the United States from international criminal justice and severely undermines our leadership in bringing perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice elsewhere in the world.

“The double standard set forth in his speech will likely play well with authoritarian regimes, which will resist accountability for atrocity crimes and ignore international efforts to advance the rule of law. This was a speech soaked in fear and Bolton sounded the message, once again, that the United States is intimidated by international law and multilateral organizations. I saw not strength but weakness conveyed today by the Trump Administration.”

Bolton actually works for the merchants of hate:

Rogue state, indeed.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

These are the true colors shining through. The mask's fallen off. FINALLY!!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Conservatives being repugnant. Nothing new here.

Well seeing as it's not making the rounds on the 'liberal' media, I'd guess this is america being repugnant.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

This is as pathetic as Japanese right-wing nutjobs denouncing the jurisdiction of the International War Crimes Tribunal of the Far East.

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Conservatives being repugnant. Nothing new here.

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Rogue state

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Last thing America or Israel need or want is to be held accountable for their citizens actions by a third independent party.

21 ( +22 / -1 )

It's all going according to Putin's plan.

14 ( +21 / -7 )

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