The United States on Monday warned the International Criminal Court against prosecution of US or Israeli officials for war crimes in the Middle East.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”
In remarks to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, Bolton said: “If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly… The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”
While “in theory, the ICC holds perpetrators of the most egregious atrocities accountable for their crimes, provides justice to the victims, and deters future abuses,” he said, “In practice… the court has been ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous.
“For all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us,” he stated.
Bolton added that “While the court welcomes the membership of the so-called state of Palestine, it has threatened Israel, a liberal, democratic nation, with investigation into its actions in the West Bank and Gaza to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks.”
He noted recent suggestions “that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank” and said “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel.”
Israel last month lodged a formal protest with the ICC for launching a campaign to reach out to “victims of the situation in Palestine,” an unusual step which Jerusalem officials charge casts doubt on the court’s ability to treat the Jewish state fairly.
Bolton said the State Department’s decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in Washington reflected “congressional concern with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” he added. “The United States supports a direct and robust process, and we will not allow the ICC or any other organization to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”
Bolton also threatened to arrest and prosecute judges and other officials of the International Criminal Court if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.
The ICC, which is based in the Hague, has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that established the court, but his successor, George W. Bush, renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.