President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, just attacked the biggest international body that enforces human rights across the world, particularly in war-torn regions that are often ruthlessly plundered and massacred by the invading forces.
In a fiery speech to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, D.C., Bolton not only called the International Criminal Court (ICC) “illegitimate” and “dangerous,” but also threatened to impose sanctions and arrest its judges if the court opens a formal investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the United States’ military and intelligence officers during the war in Afghanistan.
The former Fox News talking head, who also happens to be a notorious warmonger, had some really harsh words for the court which was established in 2002 for the purpose of prosecuting war crimes, genocide, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity.
“I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president of the United States,” Bolton told the attendees in his first major speech since joining the administration. “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. And we certainly 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.”
Earlier, the Trump administration announced to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in D.C. because of its calls for a probe into apparent abuse and violence carried out against Palestinian civilians by the United States’ biggest ally, Israel.
Bolton reaffirmed the fact in his virulent address, claiming the ICC would have to suffer consequences if it came after either the U.S. or Israel.
“If the court comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies, we will not sit quietly,” said the national security adviser. “We will respond against the ICC and its personnel to the extent permitted by U.S. law. We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”
Bolton also said he would “negotiate even more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering U.S. persons to the ICC.”
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, was established under the Rome Statute. However, the United States never ratified the treaty and former President George W. Bush was opposed to the court, which was founded shortly after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began following the 9/11 attack.
Later, former President Barack Obama managed to set up a working relation with the international war crimes court.
Given the magnitude of detainee abuse and other criminal allegations against member of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and the scores of Palestinian civilians reportedly killed by IDF soldiers in Israel, Bolton’s words proved the current administration has no regards for innocent human lives after all.
“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,” David Scheffer, who established the ICC on behalf of the U.S., told The Guardian. “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.”
The Amnesty International also issued a statement criticizing the Trump official’s disturbing speech.
“The United States’ attack on the International Criminal Court is an attack on millions of victims and survivors who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law and undermines decades of groundbreaking work by the international community to advance justice,” said Adotei Akwei, Deputy Director Advocacy and Government Relations at Amnesty International USA. “Rather than imposing sanctions, the United States should instead once and for all reaffirm its signature of the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, and support – not impede – its investigations.”
“The ICC prosecutes the most serious crimes under international law – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression,” the statement continued. “Resuming attacks against the Court sends a dangerous signal that the United States is hostile to human rights and the rule of law.”
One of the most prominent examples of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan is the case of former Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who committed one of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In fact, his case marked the worst massacre blamed on a rogue U.S. soldier since Vietnam War.
On March 11, 2012, after a night of drinking and watching a movie, Bales allegedly armed himself with a nine-millimeter pistol and an M4 rifle and left Camp Belambay in Kandahar province and set out for the village of Alkozai. After killing people there he returned to his base and told a fellow soldier, who was sleeping, "I just shot up some people."
The other soldier didn't believe Bales' account and went back to sleep.
Meanwhile, Bales reloaded his weapons and left for another village, Najiban, and killed more people. All in all, he shot at 22 civilians, killed 16, including nine children.
In June 2013, he admitted to 16 counts of premeditated murder among other charges.
By threatening ICC against opening investigation into such incidents, is the United States protecting other war criminals like Bales?
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters, Denis Balibouse