US Adviser Lashes Out At ICC Over War Crimes Probe In Afghanistan

The Trump administration lashed out Monday at two of its favorite diplomatic punching bags, the International Criminal Court and the Palestinians.

In a caustic speech, National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened the ICC and its staff with sanctions if it proceeds with investigations into alleged war crimes by American troops in Afghanistan and lauded the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington that the State Department had announced just an hour before.

In his speech targeting the ICC, Bolton questioned the legitimacy of The Hague-based court, its mission and mandate, warned that the US would thwart any attempt by its prosecutors to open investigations into Americans for alleged war crimes and other abuses in conflicts in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Bolton, a leading critic of the ICC said the Trump administration would impose sanctions on the court and take other measures to hamper its ability to function should it proceed with such probes.

“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. 

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We 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.”

Bolton said the US would “not sit quietly” if the ICC came after it, Israel or other US allies. He said ICC judges and prosecutors would be banned from coming to the US, their assets in US jurisdictions frozen and they would face prosecution in the United States.

Similar measures will be taken against any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans, he said.

“This administration will fight back to protect American constitutionalism, our sovereignty, and our citizens,” Bolton said. 

“No committee of foreign nations will tell us how to govern ourselves and defend our freedom,” he said.

The State Department said the step – the latest in a series of moves targeting the Palestinians – came after a careful review of the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization office centered on the fact that no “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” are underway despite previous warnings.

It said the decision was also in line with US law, a reflection of congressional concerns and consistent with US policy to oppose and punish Palestinian attempts to bring Israel before the ICC.

Bolton then followed up in his address to The Federalist Society, a conservative, Washington-based think-tank.

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

The Trump administration notified the Palestinians last November it would shutter their Washington office unless they entered serious peace talks with Israel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, commonly known as the PLO, formally represents all Palestinians. Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO has maintained in Washington a general delegation office that facilitates Palestinian officials’ interactions with the US government.

The closure was just the latest move the administration has taken against the Palestinians and in favor of Israel.

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