Criminal Court (ICC), a legal body created in 2000 by a majority of world countries signing and ratifying the Rome Statue treaty, and which is headquartered in the Hague, the Netherlands, is now deciding whether to investigate and prosecute members of the United States military and the CIA for war crimes and crimes against humanity (including torture of prisoners) in connection with the continuing war in Afghanistan (Imagine U.S. military personnel in the defendants’ docket in the movie “Judgment at Nuremburg,” instead of the German people). The decision will be made and published before the end of 2018.
The ICC is sometimes confused with the ICJ, or International Court of Justice (the UN-based court through which CARICOM is pursuing international reparations). But the latter deals directly with investigating country to country issues, while the ICC—independent of the United Nations– deals with individuals who are citizens or residents in member countries. Thus, for instance, if the ICC decided to investigate, prosecute and punish those suspected of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, the sanctions or punishments (including jail and other actions) would be applied to individuals.
Member countries, for example, would be required to arrest individuals traveling through their countries who have been indicted or found guilty by the ICC courts. The ICC focuses on and has international jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by citizens of countries which are signatories of the Rome Statue treaty or within the territory of such nations. Signatory countries are legally obligated to cooperate with the ICC when the ICC requires it.
The United States, which is not a ratifying member of the ICC (former President Clinton signed the Rome Statue, but the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty) has predictably issued strong denunciations of even the possibility of the ICC investigating the actions of the U.S. Military.
John Bolton, the current National Security Advisor for the U.S., has, for example, recently gone beyond mere protest and issued threats of severe action against any ICC judges and/or prosecutors involved in either granting permission to investigate the US army/ CIA for war crimes in Afghanistan, or that become involved in carrying out such investigations. Bolton said the U.S. would block the entry of such ICC judges into the US, sanction such ICC personnel from using U.S. banks, and even threatened to prosecute ICC personnel in U.S. courts. He even took it further and said that, “any American company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans, would also be prosecuted in US courts.”
Most of Bolton’s threats, however, are toothless. The ICC has international legality, with over 123-member countries. If the U.S. itself were a member of the ICC it would, perhaps, have more leverage on this issue. But, alas, it is not.
This is an interesting turn of events in which the bully seems to be getting out-bullied. If such investigations of U.S. military actions commence, this situation may even be the spark that leads to the U.S. finally ending its participation in this very longest of American wars. Either way it goes, here is another international issue which the Trump administration does not seem prepared to handle besides saber-rattling and threats to do harm to judges and prosecutors.
This reputation of always criticizing, confronting and deriding justice systems may be one this administration (and perhaps succeeding ones from the U.S.) will not ever be able to shake off. That would truly be memorable for the country that has long basked in the reputation as the international force of good in the world.
Score another plaudit for ‘Make America First Again.’
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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