International Criminal Court Vows to Continue Its Work 'Undeterred' by U.S. Sanction Threats

National Security Adviser John Bolton says United States won't allow ICC to 'constrain' Israel's self defense or to investigate U.S. activities in Afghanistan

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, Aug. 20, 2018.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, Aug. 20, 2018. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

The International Criminal Court said on Tuesday it would "continue to do its work undeterred" a day after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions if the tribunal investigated U.S. activities in Afghanistan.

The Hague-based court said in a statement it was an independent and impartial institution with the backing of 123 countries.

"The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law," it said.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last year there was a "reasonable basis to believe" war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in Afghanistan and that all sides in the conflict would be examined, including members of the U.S. armed forces and Central Intelligence Agency.

Bolton said on Monday that if such an investigation was launched, the Trump administration would consider banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanctioning funds they have there and prosecuting them in U.S. courts.

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In addition to this announcement, Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Monday that the U.S. will shield Israel from any attempts to investigate its actions by the International Criminal Court. "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 to defend citizens from terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Gaza", Bolton said.

"There has also been a suggestion that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank. The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel", Bolton stated. He added that the United States "will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense."

In addition, Bolton also announced that the Trump administration is shutting down the PLO diplomatic delegation in Washington. A State Department statement said that "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel" and that the PLO leadership had instead "condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise."

An Israeli official said that the Palestinians' appeal to the ICC and refusal to negotiate with Israel and the U.S. was not the way to promote peace. “It’s good that the U.S. is taking a clear stance on this matter,” they said.

The Palestinians claim that the Trump administration is biased against them and has fully adopted Israel’s positions, and are saying they will only negotiate under the mediation of a broader international forum.

The United States did not ratify the Rome treaty that established the ICC during the presidency of Republican George W. Bush. Instead, it adopted the American Services-Members' Protection Act, nicknamed the Hague Invasion Act because it authorized the use of any means necessary to free U.S. personnel held by the court.

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