Trump threatens ICC with sanctions

The Trump administration threatened the International Criminal Court with sanctions if it pursued an investigation of American troops in Afghanistan, opening a harsh new attack on an old nemesis of many on the political Right.

By Mark Landler in Washington
  • Published 11.09.18
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President Trump's national security adviserJohn Bolton. (Reuters)

Washington: The Trump administration threatened the International Criminal Court with sanctions if it pursued an investigation of American troops in Afghanistan, opening a harsh new attack on an old nemesis of many on the political Right.

"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court," President Trump's national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said in a speech on Monday in Washington.

"We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering" the United States," Bolton said. "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 in an ICC investigation of Americans."

Bolton also announced that the US would shut down the Palestine Liberation Organisation's office in Washington - a decision linked to the International Criminal Court, which he said was being prodded by the Palestinians to investigate Israel.

Bolton's hostile words, in what the White House has called his first major address as national security adviser, echoed the position he took as a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, when Bolton emerged as the most virulent foe of the court, which is based in The Hague.

The US declined to join the court during Bush's first term, when Bolton was an under secretary of state and later ambassador to the UN. After he left the Bush administration, the White House showed a little less resistance to the court's work, even expressing support for its investigation of atrocities in Darfur.

Under President Barack Obama, the US began helping the court in investigations and shifted to a policy of "positive engagement", according to Harold Koh, then the state department's legal adviser.

Still, the US never joined the court. And with Bolton back in power, the White House has swung back to the language of 2002 and 2003.

In his speech, he made familiar arguments against the court, saying that it infringed on American sovereignty, had unchecked power, and was "ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous".

"The largely unspoken, but always central, aim of its most vigorous supporters was to constrain the US," Bolton said. "The objective was not limited to targeting individual US service members, but rather America's senior political leadership, and its relentless determination to keep our country secure."

New York Times News Service