The International Criminal Court on Tuesday pushed back against a withering attack from Washington to prosecute and sanction its judges and officials if Americans are charged with war crimes allegedly committed during the war in Afghanistan.
“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,” The Hague-based court said in a short statement.
On Monday, in the first major policy speech since his appointment, National Security Adviser John R. Bolton blasted the 16-year-old tribunal — which the U.S. has never joined — as a “supernational independent institution” that functions with unchecked powers to “infringe on American sovereignty.”
Speaking in Washington at the Federalist Society, a conservative legal advocacy group, Mr. Bolton added that the ICC had no jurisdiction to investigate U.S. officials and soldiers for their actions in Afghanistan, nor any authority over Israel or any other U.S. ally.
“If the court comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies, we will not sit quietly,” Mr. Bolton said.
He added that Washington was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans.
On Tuesday, the court responded that it was an “independent and impartial judicial institution.”
“The court’s jurisdiction is subject to the primary jurisdiction of states themselves to investigate and prosecute allegations of those crimes and bring justice to the affected communities,” its officials added in their statement. “It is only when the states concerned fail to do so at all or genuinely that the ICC will exercise jurisdiction.”
Established in 2002, the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the world’s worst crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, it does not have the capacity to arrest suspects and depends on member states for their cooperation.
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