The US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has issued a damning threat against the International Criminal Court (ICC) established by the Rome Statute. The Washington Office of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) is being ordered closed out of fear and anger because it was issuing calls for the ICC to investigate Israeli crimes. Just like the Taliban in Swat Valley of Pakistan feared and loathed a little girl named Malala, the Trump administration is having same feelings towards the ICC.
Bolton warned that, “If the court comes after us, Israel, or other US allies we will not sit quietly” and would “fight back”. In reply to his onslaught, the ICC said that they would be “undeterred” by Trump administration’s threats and would continue to investigate war crimes and that, “The ICC was created for the noble purpose of ending impunity for perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, when nations are unwilling or unable to prosecute.” Bolton’s hostility towards the court is not new. President Clinton signed the Rome Statute but didn’t put it up for Senate’s ratification. Bush was recalcitrant of allowing some international court to prosecute Americans.
At the time Bolton was under-secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. He led Bush’s efforts against the ICC on constitutional grounds and successfully negotiated ‘Article 98’ agreements with many countries. These bilateral agreements exempt Americans from prosecution of war crimes that they have committed in those countries. Legal experts dubbed them “impunity agreements”. More than a 100 countries have signed such agreements. Bolton despised the court so much that he called pulling out of it his “happiest moment”.
The legal immunisation for America doesn’t end there. The Bush administration enacted a law called the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (APSA). It authorises the use of force in rescuing any American or a citizen of an allied nation facing prosecution at the court. In the Netherlands, it is called the ‘Hague Invasion Act’. Therefore, Bolton’s threats against the court and the judges aren’t idle. Though his threats do not mention the use of force, the threat of it looms large. “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton said. He further said, “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.” Individuals and entities are prosecuted when they are accused of committing a crime. In Bolton’s mind, investigating American war crimes is a crime.
The elementary definition of a ‘rogue state’ is a state that doesn’t respect and abide by international law and treaties, and poses a threat to the security of other nations. Usually, the label is ritualistically and reflexively reserved for Iran and North Korea. However, if one applies the definition, the United States stands out as the biggest rogue state in the world. Bolton in his diatribe indirectly threatened states around the world that might cooperate in the ICC investigation of the Americans. “We will do the same [sanctions and prosecution in US courts] for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans,” he said. That is a contravention of the article 2(4) of the UN charter.
In Bolton’s mind, the American exceptionalism is above the international law as well as capable to trump the truth. He said, “The ICC prosecutor has requested to investigate these Americans for alleged detainee abuse, and perhaps more — an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.” Does he really believe detainee abuse stories have gone down the Orwellian hole and he can ram ‘alternative facts’ down the throats? Imperial mindset believes that facts are what it says they are and crimes are what others commit.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2018.