(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday slammed a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to allow an investigation of alleged war crimes by the U.S. and others in the Afghan conflict to proceed, and suggested retaliatory steps will be taken.
He also said the U.S. had evidence indicating that “foreign parties” have sought to provide misinformation to the court.
“We will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, unlawful, so-called court,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.
“We’ve come to know this ICC as a truly political body. I know one of those Cs stands for ‘court,’ and when we think about courts in America we think about independence and Article III [of the U.S. Constitution]. This is not that.”
Earlier in the day the court’s appeals chamber in The Hague overturned an April 2019 decision by a pre-trial chamber, which had ruled that the investigation should not go ahead because it would not “serve the interests of justice.”
Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda welcomed having been given the green light to proceed, saying it was “an important day for the cause of justice in the situation of Afghanistan, for the court, and for international criminal justice more broadly.”
“The many victims of atrocious crimes committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan deserve to finally have justice,” she said. “Today, they are one step closer to that coveted outcome.”
The investigation Bensouda launched in late 2017 is probing war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the Afghanistan war, including allegations of “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape” by U.S. troops against detainees in Afghanistan, and by CIA personnel against detainees at secret facilities in Eastern Europe.
The investigation is also looking into alleged war crimes by the Taliban and Haqqani Network terrorist groups, and by the Afghan armed forces.
Just days before last April’s decision by the pre-trial chamber, the State Department revoked Bensouda’s U.S. visa, in line with a decision weeks earlier to bar entry to anyone “directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel.”
Pompeo was asked Thursday whether the U.S. would now take similar action against the ICC appeal chamber judges. (The five judges are Piotr Hofmaski of Poland, Solomy Balungi Bossa of Uganda, Kimberly Prost of Canada, Howard Morrison of Britain, and Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza of Peru.)
“I don’t want to get in front of what actions we might take,” he replied. “We’re going to take all the appropriate actions to ensure that American citizens are not hauled before this political body to settle a political vendetta.”
Pompeo said announcements could be expected, “probably in a couple weeks.”
He also said, without elaborating, that the U.S. has “evidence suggesting that … there have been efforts to provide misinformation to the court by foreign parties.”
‘The criminal responsibility of those who developed, authorized or bore oversight responsibility’
“We have a solid [legal] system here in the United States,” Pompeo said. “When there’s wrongdoing by an American, we have a process by which that is redressed. This ICC thing is not that.”
Under the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the ICC may exercise jurisdiction only where national legal systems are unwilling or unable genuinely to prosecute (the so-called “principle of complementarity”).
In 2006, the Bush administration reported to a U.N. committee that more than 600 criminal investigations had been conducted into alleged wrongdoing by U.S. personnel in the campaign against terror. It said more than 250 individuals had been held accountable for detainee abuse, with punishments including prison terms of up to ten years.
Bensouda has questioned U.S. claims to have taken appropriate action.
“Although the U.S. has asserted that it has conducted thousands of investigations into detainee abuse, to the extent discernible, such investigations and/or prosecutions appear to have focused on alleged acts committed by direct physical perpetrators and/or their immediate superiors,” she wrote in a 2017 report.
“None of the investigations appear to have examined the criminal responsibility of those who developed, authorized or bore oversight responsibility for the implementation by members of the U.S. armed forces of the interrogation techniques that resulted in the alleged commission of crimes,” she said.
From the outset, U.S. aversion to the ICC has centered on concerns that American military or civilian personnel stationed abroad could find themselves hauled before the tribunal, for politicized reasons.
President Clinton signed the Rome Statute, but did not seek Senate advice and consent. The George W. Bush administration “unsigned” the treaty, then secured from more than 100 nations signed pledges not to surrender U.S. citizens to the ICC without U.S. consent.
Although more sympathetic towards the ICC in principle, the Obama administration took no steps to sign the Rome Statute, let alone press for its ratification.