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The united response to John Bolton’s declaration of war on the ICC
by Lynda Carson (tenantsrule [at]
Wednesday Sep 12th, 2018 5:01 AM
The ICC is encouraged by the strong support and cooperation, not only of the 123 States Parties to the Rome Statute, but also by the support it has received from other States and international organizations and civil society in carrying out its mandate.
The united response to National Security Advisor John Bolton’s declaration of war on the ICC

By Lynda Carson - September 12, 2018

The declaration of war by National Security Advisor John Bolton against the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been met with a united front of condemnation, and universal praise for the human right’s activities of the ICC.

National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened the ICC Monday, September 10, while giving a speech to the nefarious Federalist Society at the Mayflower Hotel. In a declaration of war against the respected war crimes court, Bolton threatened the International Criminal Court (ICC) with sanctions and the arrest of its members if the ICC opens an investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by U.S. forces and its allies in Afghanistan since May 1, 2003.

Response of the ICC and its allies to the threats of John Bolton:

Statement by the President of the Assembly, O-Gon Kwon, reaffirming support for the ICC: September 11, 2018

The International Criminal Court is an independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under international law. The Court is non-political and acts strictly within the legal framework of the Rome Statute, its founding treaty. The Court's mandate is to help put an end to impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole and to bring justice to those affected by such crimes.

One of the cornerstones of the Rome Statute system is that it recognizes the primary jurisdiction of States to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes. The jurisdiction of the Court is only complementary to domestic jurisdictions.

The Court is encouraged by the strong support and cooperation, not only of the 123 States Parties to the Rome Statute, but also by the support it has received from other States and international organizations and civil society in carrying out its mandate. This commitment was recently reaffirmed on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute this July.

The Assembly of States Parties remains committed to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute, including in particular the judicial independence of the Court.

Liechtenstein UN‏Verified account @LiechtensteinUN 18h18 hours ago. 20 years after the historic adoption of the #RomeStatute of the #ICC, to which 123 countries from all regions of the world are party, the rules-based international order is under increasing attack, making political support for the independence of the ICC more important than ever!

Liechtenstein UN‏Verified account @LiechtensteinUN 18h18 hours ago. LI strongly supports the work of @IntlCrimCourt – humanity’s first and only permanent, independent and impartial criminal court. #ICC #RomeStatute #JusticeMatters

GermanForeignOffice‏Verified account @GermanyDiplo 20h20 hours ago. Since 2002, the International Criminal Court @IntlCrimCourt has been enforcing international law in cases of the most serious crimes. We are committed to the work of the ICC - in particular when it comes under fire.

France Diplomacy🇫🇷‏Verified account @francediplo_EN 18h18 hours ago. #ICC France, together with its European partners, supports the International Criminal Court through its budgetary contribution as well as its cooperation with it.

Response from the ACLU: Trump Administration Threatens International Criminal Court Judges and Prosecutors for Doing Their Jobs

By Jamil Dakwar, Director, ACLU Human Rights Program
September 11, 2018 | 5:00 PM

In an unprecedented attack on one of the most important judicial bodies in the world, National Security Advisor John Bolton on Monday threatened to sanction the International Criminal Court and its staff if the court approves a full investigation into U.S. torture in Afghanistan. The U.S. is not a member of the court, but it has supported the court’s efforts to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable — as long as those efforts don’t involve U.S. or close allies.

In a speech at the Federalist Society, Bolton said of the ICC, “We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system.”

While Bolton’s hostility to international bodies in general — and to the ICC in particular — is not new, he is now setting a new policy on behalf of the U.S. government.

He also made misleading statements and old, half-baked arguments to support the U.S.’s new approach of treating well-respected judges and prosecutors like it treats international drug traffickers or suspected foreign war criminals.

For example, Bolton suggested that the court could investigate and prosecute “acts of aggression” by the United States, warning that the term could be used to cover many U.S. policies. This is fear-mongering and incorrect. In reality, the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression by non-members — and even members must specifically agree to it.

The true reason for the policy now is that the Trump administration wants to stop a long-overdue investigation into U.S. torture. The administration’s threats come as former U.S. officials face, for the first time, the possibility of a full criminal investigation by the court for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is an ICC member, which means that the court can prosecute crimes committed there since May 2003 when it joined the court. The impending investigation would also cover CIA torture at secret “black sites” in three European countries that are members: Poland, Romania, and Lithuania.

The ICC prosecutor’s office announced a preliminary examination in 2007 into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. In November 2017, the ICC prosecutor announced that she was seeking a full investigation, which can lead to prosecutions. The full investigation is awaiting authorization by the ICC’s “Pre-Trial Chamber.”
A full investigation would cover crimes by all parties involved in the war since 2003, including the Taliban, Afghan forces, and allied forces including the United States. The investigation could cover acts by civilian and military leaders who approved the illegal torture regime.

Obviously, the Trump administration doesn’t want this to happen. Indeed, in talking about the reasons behind Bolton’s remarks, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the ICC had just informed the administration that a decision on the investigation was imminent.

A Bush-era law prohibits the government from assisting the ICC in extraditing U.S. citizens, and bars military aid to countries that are ICC members (with some exceptions). However, there is no legal basis for the Trump administration’s threat to criminally prosecute ICC judges and prosecutors and hit them with travel and financial sanctions.
The long-term goal of the Trump administration is clearly to attack the ICC’s legitimacy and pressure other countries to cut its funding and boycott it. This misguided and harmful policy will only further isolate the United States from its closest democratic allies — every other member of NATO except Turkey has joined the ICC. Bolton’s words of intimidation also give solace to war criminals and oppressive regimes seeking to evade consequences for their crimes.

The Trump administration’s new policy is a dangerous attack on the rule of law and an affront to survivors of U.S. torture who have been denied justice for the past 15 years — including during the Obama administration, which decided to “look forward not backward” and failed to hold former Bush administration officials accountable for their torture policy.

This week’s attack on the ICC is also the latest salvo in the Trump administration’s campaign to undermine universal human rights and international bodies. Previous offenses include withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Trump has also pulled out of the negotiations leading up to the Global Compact on Migration, attacked U.N. independent human rights experts investigating poverty in the United States, and refused to appear at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The American people and our political representatives in Congress must push back against these dangerous actions. The Trump administration’s move must also be strongly resisted by allies abroad to prevent further damage to institutions that were created to fight impunity and hold rights violators accountable.

Response from Human Rights Watch: September 11, 2018: US Takes Aim at the International Criminal Court

Bolton Tirade Prompted by Looming Afghanistan Investigation

Elizabeth Evenson
Associate Director, International Justice Program

Yesterday, US national security advisor John Bolton denounced the International Criminal Court (ICC), announcing in a speech that the Trump administration would no longer cooperate with the court and rattling off a number of threats should ICC investigations reach US, Israeli or other allied country citizens.

Of Bolton’s bluster, the most outlandish was a threat to prosecute in US courts ICC judges and prosecutors who bring legal action against Americans.

Bolton was the public face of a concerted US campaign under the George W. Bush administration to undermine the ICC, a court set up in 2002 to try the worst international crimes. These efforts did little more than erode US credibility on international justice and gradually gave way to a more supportive US posture. In 2005, the US did not veto a UN Security Council request to the ICC prosecutor to investigate crimes in Darfur, Sudan.
Supporters of international justice will mark the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on July 17, 2018. In this video, students from universities around the world discuss the court’s importance.

So what prompted the high-profile attack on the ICC, which scraped away the veneer on the Trump administration’s stated commitments to accountability for grave crimes in Syria and Myanmar? Bolton said the Bush administration’s “worst predictions” were confirmed by the ICC prosecutor’s request last November to open an investigation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is an ICC member, which means the court has jurisdiction over alleged war crimes committed there, which could include those committed by US military personnel and Central Intelligence Agency officers. The ICC prosecutor is also considering launching an investigation into the Palestine situation; Palestine is also an ICC member. Bolton used the speech to announce a decision to close down the PLO representative office in Washington over its support for an ICC probe into serious crimes committed in Palestine.

Bolton’s remarks painted the ICC as lacking checks and balances, but there are significant constraints on the ICC’s ability to act. Bolton was dismissive of what is, in fact, a key limit: the ICC is a court of last resort. Countries can avoid ICC scrutiny by conducting genuine investigations and bringing appropriate prosecutions as are already required by international law. This is something that the US has not done in Afghanistan nor Israel with respect to Gaza and the West Bank.

ICC officials and member countries are unlikely to be cowed by Bolton’s disdain for the court. But his speech was a stark affront to victims of atrocity crimes seeking justice. The ICC has its shortcomings, but it serves as a powerful signal to perpetrators and victims alike that justice for the worst crimes is possible. ICC member countries pushed back on US threats during the Bush administration. They should do the same this time and make clear that they will ensure the ICC remains the vital avenue for justice the world desperately needs.

Response from Human Rights First: September 10, 2018
Response to Amb. Bolton Remarks on International Criminal Court

Washington, D.C.— In response to National Security Advisor John Bolton’s announcement of policy toward the International Criminal Court, Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy Rob Berschinski issued the following statement:

Today Ambassador Bolton laid out a policy that will further alienate the United States from many of its closest allies, and that will harm ongoing efforts to achieve justice for some of the world's greatest human rights abuses.  What we heard today from the Trump Administration wasn’t a call for rational reform in pursuit of international justice, but reactionary fear-mongering. Threats to sanction and prosecute international jurists are extremely serious, and will seriously damage America’s reputation as a nation that supports credible international justice mechanisms. Ultimately, it’s the Bashar al Assads of the world that will benefit from this policy. 

Additional response from the ACLU: September 10, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s national security advisor, John R. Bolton, today delivered remarks before the Federalist Society. Speaking about the International Criminal Court, Bolton stated, “We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system.”

Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, issued the following statement in response:

“The Trump administration’s threat to criminally prosecute and sanction International Criminal Court judges and prosecutors is straight out of an authoritarian playbook. The unprecedented threat comes as U.S. officials face, for the first time, the specter of full criminal investigation by the court for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, which is an ICC member. This misguided and harmful policy will only further isolate the United States from its closest allies and give solace to war criminals and authoritarian regimes seeking to evade international accountability. The Trump administration’s unwavering campaign to undermine universal human rights must be strongly resisted to avoid further damage to the institutions that were created to protect human dignity and fight impunity.”

After a decade of collecting evidence, the International Criminal Court announced last year that it will take steps toward a full investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed over the course of the armed conflict in Afghanistan since May 2003. If the investigation proceeds, ACLU clients Khaled El Masri, Suleiman Salim, and Mohamed Ben Soud — all of whom were detained and tortured in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 — could participate in the legal proceedings as victims and witnesses.

Additional information about the proceedings can be found here:

Bagram torture and prisoner abuse:

According to Wikipedia: In 2005, The New York Times obtained a 2,000-page United States Army investigatory report concerning the homicides of two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners by U.S. military personnel in December 2002 at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (also Bagram Collection Point or B.C.P.) in Bagram, Afghanistan and general treatment of prisoners. The two prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were repeatedly chained to the ceiling and beaten, resulting in their deaths. Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners' deaths were homicides. Autopsies revealed severe trauma to both prisoners' legs, describing the trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus. Seven soldiers were charged in 2005.

Jonathan Idema torture chamber in Afghanistan:

According to Wikipedia: Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema (May 30, 1956 – January 21, 2012) was a former U.S. Army reserve special operations non-commissioned officer with a controversial history. In September 2004 he was found guilty of running a private prison in Afghanistan and torturing Afghan citizens. At the time, Idema had been portraying himself as a U.S. government-sponsored special forces operative on a mission to apprehend terrorists. However, the U.S. government has repeatedly denied most of such claims.

Afghan War documents leak:

According to Wikipedia:
The Afghan War documents leak, also called the Afghan War Diary, is the disclosure of a collection of internal U.S. military logs of the War in Afghanistan, which were published by WikiLeaks on 25 July 2010.[1][2] The logs consist of over 91,000[3] Afghan War documents, covering the period between January 2004 and December 2009. Most of the documents are classified secret.[2] As of 28 July 2010, only 75,000 of the documents have been released to the public, a move which WikiLeaks says is "part of a harm minimization process demanded by [the] source".[4][5] Prior to releasing the initial 75,000 documents, WikiLeaks made the logs available to The Guardian,[6][7] The New York Times[8] and Der Spiegel in its German and English online edition,[9][10] which published reports per previous agreement on that same day, 25 July 2010.

US involvement in War Crimes and images of Abu Ghraib shocked the world and the American public.

Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse: According to Wikipedia: During the war in Iraq that began in March 2003, personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a series of human rights violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.[1] These violations included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder.[2][3][4][5] The abuses came to widespread public attention with the publication of photographs of the abuse by CBS News in April 2004. The incidents received widespread condemnation both within the United States and abroad, although the soldiers received support from some conservative media within the United States.[6][7]

The administration of George W. Bush asserted that these were isolated incidents, not indicative of general U.S. policy.[8][9] This was disputed by humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. These organizations stated that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not isolated incidents, but were part of a wider pattern of torture and brutal treatment at American overseas detention centers, including those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.[9] Several scholars stated that the abuses constituted state-sanctioned crimes.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at]


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