On the same day that the U.S. president extolled “law and order” at an event in Texas, he undermined international law enforcement by authorizing sanctions against International Criminal Court employees involved in an investigation into U.S. military activities in Afghanistan.
The Trump Administration said the ICC threatens U.S. sovereignty and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced it as a “kangaroo court.” But the ICC itself rightly said that the U.S. action hurts the cause of justice as well as the victims of atrocities.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is looking into whether U.S. and Afghani forces, as well as those of the Taliban and Haqqani network, committed torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence, and cruel treatment of detainees at the height of the post-9/11 war. While a justice-loving nation like the United States should welcome such an inquiry, instead the U.S. stripped Bensouda of her visa last year.
The ICC opened its investigation after determining in 2017 that there were reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan by combatants on both sides. Bensouda has said there is evidence pointing to offenses by members of the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Human rights activists quickly denounced the Administration’s action. Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch said that it “demonstrates contempt for the global rule of law” and constitutes a “blatant attempt at obstruction,” while Hina Shamsi of the ACLU’s National Security Project said, “President Trump is grossly abusing emergency powers to block one of the only avenues left for justice to victims of terrible American human rights violations.”
The ICC itself said in a statement, “An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”
US Continues to Isolate from Global Community
While 123 nations around the world recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, the United States has stubbornly refused to join them. This latest action is just another backwards step by an Administration that has sought to isolate the U.S. by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, two arms control treaties with Russia, and several UN agencies, and that has threatened to end U.S. ties to both the World Health Organization and the International Postal Union.
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer was succinct in a tweet: “What a painful process, watching a great & inspiring nation being turned into a rogue state by men with no sense of responsibility for their people, other nations & future generations. History is replete of examples — must we REALLY go through this again?”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.