The International Criminal Court (ICC) has come under mind-boggling attack from the US National Security Adviser. This, of course, is the so-called court of last resort when it comes to prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In short, the ICC steps in if national governments are unwilling to do the needful or else are not party to the Rome Statute.
And it is this notion of supranational jurisdiction that John Bolton finds utterly disagreeable. This hard man of history who prides himself on remaining undeterred by fantasies of international law. That may well be how he views himself and the current administration. Not to mention that of George W Bush; under which he also served. Yet what most observers see is nothing short of American hubris at its ugliest. Not least because Bolton has threatened to bar judges from entering the US; slapping sanctions on any funds held in the country; as well as prosecution in American courts, though on what grounds remains unclear.
And all because ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s pursuit of a full investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan that would put US military and intelligence officials under the spotlight alongside the Afghan government and Taliban. Suspected US crimes pertain to torture of detainees at secret CIA detention facilities. As far as Bolton is concerned, this is a non-starter; especially considering that no country, including Afghanistan, requested ICC intervention in this regard. Be that as it may, what about ordinary Afghans? Those who submitted some 1.7 million war crimes claims before the court? Or do they not count?
They do not. For as Mr Bolton sees it, any moves towards collective accountability and justice are incompatible with US sovereignty. Yet, in truth, he could just as easily have been describing the very real consequences of American unilateralism. For the double standard could not be clearer. Washington did not give a second thought to Afghanistan’s sovereignty as it launched its war of retribution even while the Taliban were offering to hand over Bin Laden to a third country; UNSC resolution notwithstanding. The same holds true for Iraq when it came to the US-led war of aggression on the basis of non-existent WMDs. Thus the biggest takeaway from the Bolton outburst is this: only American human rights and sovereignty matter.
And that of Israel. For he also lambasted the ICC for entertaining the Palestinian request to investigate its military occupier over alleged human rights abuses in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. In fact, the US is now all set to close the Palestinian mission’s office in Washington.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that the former US ambassador to the UN who treated the world body with great disdain is now mulling whether to go to the Security Council to try and clip the ICC’s wings. This is priceless given how both the George W Bush and Trump administrations have actively worked to weaken the multilateral system. Indeed, the latter has already pulled out of the Paris climate accord; the Iran nuclear pact; and the UN’s Human Rights Council.
Which exactly why the world needs the ICC. To counter the unrighteous might of the powerful. *
Published in Daily Times, September 13th 2018.