US Threatens to Sanction ICC Judges

Wednesday, 12 Sep, 2018

The U.S. government has traditionally positioned itself as a neutral party in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"President Donald Trump is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization's mission in Washington, the latest US blow against the Palestinians and an worldwide court during the stalled Mideast peace process", writes the Associated Press. She criticized the PLO for condemning a USA peace plan "they have not yet seen".

The United States threatened Monday to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the International Criminal Court if it moves to charge Americans or Israelis with war crimes.

Bolton said the main objection is the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the USA constitution and U.S. sovereignty.

Trump has said his decisions - which have ended half a century of bipartisan USA policy towards the conflict - had been to pressure the Palestinians to make a peace deal. The administration, however, has yet to release its own much-vaunted but largely unknown peace plan although it said it still intends to do so.

Although the U.S. does not recognise Palestinian statehood, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which formally represents Palestinians, has maintained a "general delegation" office in Washington.

The Palestinians found few friends in the Trump administration, and "such irresponsible moves are clear proof of American collusion with Israel's occupation", said PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi.

Bolton followed up in his address to The Federalist Society, a conservative, Washington-based think tank.

"Such a reckless act confirms that the administration is blindly executing Israel's 'wish list, ' which starts with shutting down Palestinian diplomatic representation in the United States", he said in a statement.

"The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organisation, to constrain Israel's right to self defence", he said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, commonly known as the PLO, formally represents all Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas halted ties with the Trump administration in December after the US recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"Israel supports the American actions that are meant to clarify to the Palestinians that their refusal to negotiate and attempts to attack Israel in global forums will not promote peace", he added. The administration has also "redirected" aid meant for the West Bank and Gaza, ended all funding for the United Nations agency on Palestinian refugees and halted funding to east Jerusalem hospitals.

The two developments are related in that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to take Israel to the ICC, reports CNN.

The ICC said it had the support of 123 member states, adding 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".

War crimes allegations in Afghanistan include those allegedly committed by the Central Intelligence Agency and US forces.

If such an inquiry goes ahead, the Trump administration will consider banning judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, put sanctions on any funds they have in the USA financial system and prosecute them in American courts.

Bolton went on to proclaim that the US will not cooperate with the ICC, even financially. We will provide no assistance to the ICC.

The US is among dozens of nations not to have joined the court, founded in 2002.

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in 2002, but the U.S. did not ratify it as President George W Bush opposed the body.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC".

In a separate statement, the court's overseeing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) also pointed out that the ICC "recognises the primary jurisdiction of States to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes".

But at a press conference in Ramallah, Saeb Erekat doubled down by saying the Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel's planned demolition of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar in the West Bank.

Germany's foreign ministry said on Twitter that "we are committed to the work of the ICC - in particular when it comes under fire".