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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

US threatens to arrest ICC judges who probe Afghan war crimes

National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body 'unaccountable' and 'outright dangerous'

John Bolton threatened to arrest judges of the ICC if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes. AFP
John Bolton threatened to arrest judges of the ICC if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes. AFP

The United States has threatened to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the International Criminal Court if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.

John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, called the Hague-based rights organisation “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of American service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation”.

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

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He said the US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans.

“We 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,” he said.

“We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans,” he said.

Mr Bolton made the comments in a speech in Washington to the Federalist Society, a powerful association of legal conservatives.

Mr Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor’s request in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.

Neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC’s Rome Statute has requested an investigation, he said.

Mr Bolton said the ICC could formally open the investigation “any day now”.

He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Mr Bolton said.

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.”

The condemnation of the ICC adds to the White House’s rejection of many supranational institutions and treaties the president does not believe benefits the US.

Mr Bolton also condemned the record of the court since it started in 2002, and argued that most major nations had not joined.

He said it had attained just eight convictions despite spending more than $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) and it had failed to stem atrocities around the world.

“In fact, despite ongoing ICC investigations, atrocities continue to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and many other nations,” he said.

But Mr Bolton said the main objection of the administration of US President Donald Trump was to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution and US sovereignty.

“In secular terms we don’t recognise any higher authority than the US Constitution,” he said.

“This president 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.”