Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1409, (13-19 September 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1409, (13-19 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

US threatens ICC, shutters PLO office

Shortly after announcing it has halted its funding of UNRWA, the US has closed the PLO office in Washington and vowed to prosecute ICC judges

US threatens ICC, shutters PLO office
US threatens ICC, shutters PLO office
Al-Ahram Weekly

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton issued unprecedented threats against the International Criminal Court (ICC), vowing to retaliate if its judges attempt to prosecute Americans or Israelis for war crimes.

Bolton, a hawkish conservative who assumed office in April, laid out the US ICC policy in a speech to the Federalist Society in Washington DC Monday, where he described the international court “illegitimate” and “threatening” to American sovereignty and US national security interests.

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” he said.

The Hague-based global tribunal, which was founded in 2002, is tasked with prosecuting individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Bolton said the US will negotiate bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering US persons to the ICC and will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States.

“We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

He said the US will consider taking steps in the UN Security Council to constrain the court’s “sweeping powers”, including ensuring that the ICC “does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies that have not ratified the Rome Statute”.

The US signed the Rome Statute — the ICC’s charter — in 2000 under the Bill Clinton administration. Under George W Bush the US “unsigned” the statute in a letter submitted by Bolton, then US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, in 2002.

Bolton’s speech and the retaliation methods he outlined are consistent with longstanding US efforts to undermine the court. The American Service-members Protection Act of November 2001 authorises the US to use force to “liberate” any US or allied persons detained on behalf of the ICC. It also prohibits US military assistance to those states that ratify the ICC treaty, except for NATO members and some major non-NATO allies.

As punishment for the ICC’s welcoming of Palestine’s signing of the Rome Statute in 2015, and subsequent threats to take Israeli officials to the dock for war crimes, Bolton said the US State Department will shutter the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Washington.

“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organisation, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence.”

PLO official Saeb Erekat said the decision provides proof of the US’s “blind indulgence” of the Israeli occupation by imposing “the logic of power, blackmail and thuggery”.

The PLO is the internationally recognised representative of the Palestinians. Its Washington mission opened in 2004.

The decision follows the recent US announcement to halt its funding of UNRWA, the UN agency providing services for over five million Palestinian refugees. Earlier this year the Trump administration shattered what remains of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process by recognising Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel, although its status was to be decided in the final stages of peace talks.

The measures come at a time when the Trump administration is expected to release its vision of a final deal between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinians.

In November 2017, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested authorisation from the court’s judges to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan, including by US army personnel and the CIA.

“We will let the ICC die on its own,” Bolton said Monday. “After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

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