ICC undeterred by John Bolton's threats

ICC is dead to us’ US to use ‘any means’ to shield citizens & allies from war crime probes

Jerry Lampen Reuters

Palestinian officials on Monday condemned the Trump administration's decision to shutter the Washington, D.C. office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)-part of a broader effort to block International Criminal Court (ICC) probes into US or Israeli war crimes-as "crude and vicious blackmail", and vowed to continue calling for ICC investigations.

The Palestinians said they were undeterred from going to the ICC.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement before the official announcement that "the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale".

Bolton's aggressive speech is the earliest indication that the USA will launch a diplomatic assault against the foremost legal body in the world set up to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity, a move that is likely to raise further concerns of American efforts to undermine worldwide law.

Bolton's speech comes after the ICC in November 2017 the ICC prosecutor asked to investigate crimes allegedly committed by members of the US military who served in Afghanistan.

Bolton said the USA remained committed to negotiating a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

During his speech, Bolton said this move was linked to concerns in Washington over Palestinian attempts to see Israel punished for alleged crimes in the ICC. "We will not join the ICC", he added.

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John Bolton on Monday, September 10, said the USA would use any available means to cushion its nationals from ICC terming it as an illegitimate institution.

In a statement, PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said the U.S. was now taking aim at top Palestinian representation, one that has always been the body to negotiate with the Israelis over any peace agreement.

Bolton said he did not believe the closure of the PLO office in Washington would shut the door on a long-delayed Arab-Israeli peace plan that Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been developing for months.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has lashed out at the United States for launching a blistering verbal attack on the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the boorishness of this rogue USA regime seems to know no bounds.

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".

If the worldwide body doesn't listen, the Trump administration could ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC".

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The court's aim is to bring to justice individuals accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, Sept. 10, 2018.

Palestinians have reacted with dismay to the USA funding cuts, warning they could lead to more poverty and anger, which are among the factors stoking their decades of conflict with Israel. "It also prohibits several forms of cooperation between the United States and the Court", Bolton said.

Team Trump's consistent disdain for the "soft power" of multilateral institutions and diplomacy, which has been a bulwark of USA foreign policy since World War II, is going to undermine this country for years after Trump and Bolton leave Washington. Over the weekend, it announced it would cut $25 million in assistance for hospitals in east Jerusalem that provide critical care to Palestinian patients.

The Trump administration is expected to announce Monday that it will close the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington, administration officials said Sunday night, widening a US campaign of pressure amid stalled Middle East peace efforts.

Mr. Bolton's remarks specifically referenced a move made late last year by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a probe into possible war crimes committed by the USA and its allies during the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.

Fearing the announcement of a formal investigation, Bolton warned that the US will not "sit quietly" if the court comes after citizens of the United States or Israel, which is facing a possible investigation for alleged crimes in Palestinian territories.

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