After months of demand from World BEYOND War and others, the Biden administration has finally lifted Trump-imposed sanctions on the ICC, stating a preference for a subtler approach to imposing lawlessness in the name of upholding the rule of law.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken states:
“We continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel. We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.
“Our support for the rule of law, access to justice, and accountability for mass atrocities are important U.S. national security interests that are protected and advanced by engaging with the rest of the world to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
One might have thought that the rule of law was protected and advanced by imposing the rule of law, but perhaps “engaging” and “meeting challenges” sounds almost as good without the drawback of meaning anything.
“Since the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals after World War II, U.S. leadership meant that history permanently recorded fair judgments issued by international tribunals against justly convicted defendants from the Balkans to Cambodia, to Rwanda and elsewhere. We have carried on that legacy by supporting a range of international, regional, and domestic tribunals, and international investigative mechanisms for Iraq, Syria, and Burma, to realize the promise of justice for victims of atrocities. We will continue to do so through cooperative relationships.”
This is ridiculous. There has been no accountability for U.S. and NATO wars (“war crimes”). Opposing the International Criminal Court is the opposite of cooperation. The only thing less cooperative than staying outside of the court and denouncing it would be actively working in other ways to weaken it. Not to worry; Blinken concludes:
“We are encouraged that States Parties to the Rome Statute are considering a broad range of reforms to help the Court prioritize its resources and to achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort in punishing and deterring atrocity crimes. We think this reform is a worthwhile effort.”
When Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 creating sanctions, the ICC was investigating the actions of all parties to the war in Afghanistan and potentially investigating Israel’s actions in Palestine. The sanctions authorized the punishment of any individuals involved in or in any way assisting such court proceedings. The U.S. State Department restricted visas for ICC officials and in September 2020 sanctioned two court officials, including the Chief Prosecutor, freezing their U.S. assets and blocking them from financial transactions with U.S. persons, banks, and companies. Trump’s action was condemned by over 70 national governments, including the United States’ closest allies, and by Human Rights Watch, and by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.
One would hope that all of those same institutions would also speak out against the continued U.S. efforts to weaken and eliminate institutions of international law as well as U.S. efforts to strengthen and enlarge the leading international institution for criminal enterprise, NATO.