0711 GMT February 18, 2019
Bolton says US will arrest ICC judges who probe war crimes
Iran’s foreign minister slammed the United States for its opposition to the International Criminal Court, saying the US “boorishness” apparently knows no limits.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said on his Twitter account Tuesday that “the US threatens to impose sanctions on the ICC & even prosecute its judges in American courts. Where is the outrage?”
He said “the boorishness of this rogue US regime seems to know no bounds.”
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton on Monday denounced the legitimacy of the Netherlands-based court, which was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes.
Bolton said the US “will not cooperate with the ICC” and that the court is “already dead to us.”
He threatened that the US would arrest and sanction ICC judges and other officials if the court moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.
Bolton on Monday called the Hague-based rights body "unaccountable" and "outright dangerous" to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US 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," Bolton said.
He said the US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans.
"We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system," Bolton said.
"We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans."
Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor's request in November 2017 to open an investigation 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, Bolton said.
He said the ICC could formally open the investigation "any day now."
He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.
"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court," 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."
ICC ‘undeterred’ by US threat
The ICC defended itself in a statement Tuesday, pledging to “continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law.”
The court said it was established by a treaty supported by 123 countries and that even the United Nations Security Council has found it valuable.
"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," it said in a statement.
Bolton said the main objection of President Donald Trump's administration is to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution.
"In secular terms, we don't recognize any higher authority than the US Constitution," he said.
He also condemned the court's record since it formally started up in 2002, and argued that most major nations had not joined.
AP and AFP contributed to this story.