Thursday, March 21, 2019

Washington's Plan to Punish the International Criminal Court

While the world was distracted with the news coverage of the Christchurch tragedy, business went on as usual in Washington.  During a press conference on March 15, 2019, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the nation and the world on two foreign policy issues; first, the Senate vote on ending American support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen and second, the International Criminal Court (ICC), an issue that has possessed the Trump Administration for over two years.

In order that you can understand the current administration's viewpoint on the ICC, I am providing you with the entire text of Mr. Pompeo's speech regarding the court:

"Second item I wanted to talk today about is the International Criminal Court. In a speech last year in Brussels, I made clear that the Trump administration believes reforming international institutions, refocusing them back on their core missions, and holding them accountable when they fail to serve the people that they purport to help. We seek to partner with responsible nations to make sure that international bodies honor the principles of liberty, sovereignty, and the rule of law. Nation-states come together to form these institutions, and it’s only with their consent that these institutions exist.

Since 1998, the United States has declined to join the ICC because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers and the threat it poses to American national sovereignty. We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation. We feared that the court could eventually pursue politically motivated prosecutions of Americans, and our fears were warranted.

November of 2017, the ICC prosecutor requested approval to initiate investigation into, quote, “the situation in Afghanistan,” end of quote. That could illegitimately target American personnel for prosecutions and sentencing. In September of 2018, the Trump administration warned the ICC that if it tried to pursue an investigation of Americans there would be consequences. I understand that the prosecutor’s request for an investigation remains pending.

Thus today, persistent to existing legal authority to post visa restrictions on any alien, quote, “whose entry or proposed activities in the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences,” end of quote, I’m announcing a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel. This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent. Implementation of this policy has already begun. Under U.S. law, individual visa records are confidential, so I will not provide details as to who has been affected and who will be affected.

But you should know if you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you will still have or will get a visa, or that you will be permitted to enter the United States. The United States will implement these measures consistent with applicable law, including our obligations under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement. These visa restrictions will not be the end of our efforts. We are prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions if the ICC does not change its course.

The first and highest obligation of our government is to protect its citizens and this administration will carry out that duty. America’s enduring commitment to the rule of law, accountability, and justice is the envy of the world, and it is the core – at the core of our country’s success. When U.S. service members fail to adhere to our strict code of military conduct, they are reprimanded, they’re court-martialed, and sentenced if that’s what’s deserved. The U.S. Government, where possible, takes legal action against those responsible for international crimes. The United States directs foreign aid to strengthen foreign nations’ domestic justice systems, the first and best line of defense against impunity.

The United States also supports international hybrid legal mechanisms when they operate effectively and are consistent with our national interest. These would include, for example, the mechanism handling Rwandan and Yugoslav atrocities and international evidence collection efforts in both Syria and Burma. But the ICC is attacking America’s rule of law. It’s not too late for the court to change course and we urge that it do so immediately. Thank you." (my bolds)

Basically, Mr. Pompeo is threatening to penalize the International Court and its judges who would dare to investigate any untoward actions by American citizens even though the United States and its global national reengineering agenda has seen it overthrow and replace governments in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya with its preferred version of democracy through the use of its military might.  I'm guessing that people living in these nations would hardly regard the United States rule of law and justice as the "envy of the world".  Washington has also threatened to use economic sanctions against the ICC if they do not "change course" although it is somewhat difficult to ascertain how economic sanctions would work against a global body to which the United States is not a party.     

You will also notice that Mr. Pompeo specifically mentioned one nation outside of the United States that Washington is protecting from ICC investigations; Israel, a nation that, according to Human Rights Watch, is guilty of significant breaches of human rights as shown here:

"Israel operates a two-tiered system in the West Bank that provides preferential treatment to Israeli settlers while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians. While settlements expanded in 2017, Israeli authorities destroyed 381 homes and other property, forcibly displacing 588 people as of November 6, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as part of discriminatory practices that reject almost all building permit applications submitted by Palestinians.

Israel continued to maintain its decade-long effective closure of Gaza, exacerbated by Egypt’s keeping its own border with Gaza largely sealed, and to impose restrictions that limit supply of electricity and water, restrict access to medical care and educational and economic opportunity, and perpetuate poverty. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million people rely on humanitarian assistance.

Between January 1 and November 6, 2017, Israeli security forces killed 62 Palestinians, including 14 children, and injured at least 3,494 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, including protesters, suspected assailants or members of armed groups, and bystanders. Palestinians killed at least 15 Israelis during this same time, including 10 security officers, and injured 129 in conflict-related incidents in the West Bank and Israel.

In April and May, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners spent 40 days on hunger strike seeking better conditions. As of November 1, Israeli authorities incarcerated 6,154 inmates on what they consider security grounds, the overwhelming majority Palestinian, including 3,454 convicted prisoners, 2,247 pretrial detainees and 453 administrative detainees held without charge or trial, according to the Israel Prison Service."

Let's take a brief look at the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Here is a map showing the ICC's membership:

In total, 122 nations are State Parties to the Rome Statute with 18 being African, 18 being from the Asia-Pacific, 28 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 25 from Western Europe and other states.  You will notice that there are several significant nations that are signatories but have not ratified the Rome Statute (meaning that the treaty is not legally binding); these include the United States and Russia.  Several influential nations are not signatories including China, Saudi Arabia and, not surprisingly, Israel.  In contrast, Palestine acceded to the Statute on January 2, 2015 and it was entered into force on April 1, 2015 and Venezuela, that nation that currently finds itself in Washington's crosshairs, signed the Statute on October 14, 1998 and ratified it on June 7, 2000. 

It is interesting to note that the United States stands among nations that it vilifies for human rights abuses when it comes to its own standing with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court including Russia, China, Cuba and other nations throughout the Middle East and Africa.  Apparently, international law does not apply to the world's exceptional state.  So much for freedom and democracy.

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