US threatens to arrest ICC judges who probe war crimes

National Security Advisor John Bolton visits Kyiv Ukraine on Aug. 24 2018

National Security Advisor John Bolton visits Kyiv Ukraine on Aug. 24 2018. Maxym Marusenko—Nur

The United States will threaten to impose sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) judges if they go ahead with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by us personnel in Afghanistan, Reuters reports.

In November, the ICC prosecutor asked to investigate crimes allegedly committed by members of the US military who served in Afghanistan.

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.

Fearing the announcement of a formal investigation, Bolton warned that the US will not "sit quietly" if the court comes after citizens of the United States or Israel, which is facing a possible investigation for alleged crimes in Palestinian territories.

He said the US would take action against any countries or companies that cooperated with the ICC during the Afghanistan investigation.

The ICC is an worldwide tribunal tasked with bringing to justice perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

He called the ICC "unaccountable" and "outright dangerous" to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of U.S. service members would be "an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation".

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He said the United States does not oppose holding war criminals accountable, but rather they should "face charges by sovereign national governments" if crimes are alleged.

Last November Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas used his speech at the United Nations to call for the investigation and prosecution of Israeli officials by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a separate statement, the court's overseeing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) also pointed out that the ICC "recognises the primary jurisdiction of States to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes".

He said the ICC could formally open the investigation "any day now". She said the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani network, as well as the Afghan National Security Forces, would also be investigated.

He has always been an outspoken critic of the court but Monday's hard-hitting speech in Washington focused on two areas.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC".

The Palestine Liberation Organization, however, described the development as pressure tactics from the US. But Bolton said the ICC has been "ineffective" and "unaccountable".

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Palestinian leaders confirmed they'd been informed by the Trump administration that it plans to shut the Palestinian mission in Washington, condemning the move as proof the disbanding global efforts toward a peace deal with Israel.

Speaking to the conservative Federalist Society, Bolton asked, "Would you consign the fate of American citizens to a committee of other nations, including Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and entities that are not even states like the Palestinian authority?" "We will not join the ICC", Bolton said.

Although the USA does not recognise Palestinian statehood, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which formally represents Palestinians, has maintained a "general delegation" office in Washington.

Neither the U.S. nor Israel participates in the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, AKA "The Hague", which means that it takes an act of the UN Security Council to charge nationals of either nation (and other non-signatories).

Relations have nosedived in recent months between the United States and the Palestinian leadership, which cut off contact with President Donald Trump's administration in December after he recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"If the court comes after us, Israel or other United States allies, we will not sit quietly", Bolton said. He also said the USA would consider restrictions against ICC lawyers or officials involved in efforts to investigate Americans. The United States and Israel are not. Israel, like the United States, is not a signatory to the ICC and said the body lacked jurisdiction.

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