US threatens International court over possible war crimes probe

Senior official says Washington will not accept ICC's probe into any alleged US war crimes

WASHINGTON : The United States threatened on Monday to arrest and sanction judges and officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body "unaccountable" and "outright dangerous" to the US and allies such as Israel, and said any probe of American service members would be "an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation".

"If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly," Mr Bolton said.

"We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the US. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans."

Mr Bolton made the comments in a speech to the Federalist Society, a powerful association of legal conservatives.

He pointed to an ICC prosecutor's request in November last year to open a probe into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.

Neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC's Rome Statute has requested an investigation, Mr Bolton said. He added the ICC could formally open the investigation "any day now".

"The US will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court," Mr Bolton said.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own."

The ICC defended itself, noting it has the support of 123 member states and the United Nations Security Council found it valuable, asking it in 2005 to investigate genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

It said in a statement: "The ICC, as a judicial institution, acts strictly within the legal framework of the Rome Statute and is committed to the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate."

Mr Bolton said the objection of US President Donald Trump's administration is to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution and US sovereignty.

"In secular terms, we don't recognise any higher authority than the US Constitution," he said. "This president will not allow American citizens to be prosecuted by foreign bureaucrats, and he will not allow other nations to dictate our means of self-defence." - AFP