THE United States, which incessantly boasts that it is the world guardian of the “rules-based international order,” passed a law in August 2002 warning the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it would invade its headquarters at The Hague or any of its facilities anywhere in order to forcibly free any American citizen the court arrests and detains.
Because of this, the law, while officially known as the American Service Members’ Protection Act, is colloquially called the “Hague Invasion Act.” The law’s provisions practically threaten to outlaw the ICC if it were to investigate any American. The Act has been codified as Subchapter II of Chapter 81 of Title 22, United States Code, making it one of the general laws of the US.
Among the many provisions of the law are its prohibition on the extradition of any American from the US or from any other country to the ICC; the banning of ICC officials from conducting investigations in the US; and the barring of any government agency, including the courts, from cooperating with the ICC.
The US claimed that its main reason for hostility toward the ICC is that the Rome Statute violates its Constitution, which provides that crimes committed on American soil can be tried only by US courts. The US also claimed that the ICC cannot prosecute members of its armed forces as well as its high officials for military acts authorized by the US Congress or by the president.
Three months before the invade-the-Hague law was passed, President George W. Bush’s administration formally informed the United Nation secretary-general that it was rejecting the Rome Statute and the ICC.
The Associated Press reported: “Making a strong point that the American presidency was beyond all international institutions, the US letter to the UN wasn’t even signed by Bush but only by a mid-level bureaucrat — John R. Bolton, the State Department undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security.
Bolton’s terse 29-word letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan read: “This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty.”
“Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.”
Bolton in his letter gave no explanation why the US was withdrawing from the ICC. He was saying in effect: ICC, f**k off, get out of our face! In 2020, former president Donald Trump even issued an executive order authorizing asset freezes and entry bans on ICC officials to thwart the ICC’s investigations.
The US’ main worry actually was that with the many wars it had waged around the globe, its military officials or even its presidents were vulnerable to attack by its enemies through the filing of cases at the international court.
Indeed, in 2017, the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda — the same official who recommended investigating Rodrigo Duterte for alleged mass murder in his war against drugs campaign — claimed that she would investigate allegations that the US military and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton immediately lashed out at the ICC: “If the court comes after us, we will not sit quietly. 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.” He added: “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”
Bolton called The Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States and its allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”
“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.” Bolton also condemned its track record since it formally started up in 2002 and argued that most major nations had not joined. He said it had attained just eight convictions despite spending more than $1.5 billion and that it had not stemmed atrocities around the world.
“In fact, despite ongoing ICC investigations, atrocities continue to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and many other nations.” he added. Bolton said the main objection of the administration of Trump is to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution and US sovereignty. “In secular terms, we don’t recognize any higher authority than the US Constitution,” he said.
“This president will not allow American citizens to be prosecuted by foreign bureaucrats, and he will not allow other nations to dictate our means of self-defense.”
In stark contrast to the US’ principled stand on the ICC, that of a stupid, ignorant or for-rent cabal in our Congress is certainly disgusting. What kind of country, or what kind of legislators do we have?
House Representatives Bienvenido Abante Jr., 1-Rider party-list Ramon Gutierrez and Edcel Lagman, as well as the pink-party Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros, have filed resolutions asking the Marcos administration to have the country rejoin the ICC and let it violate our sovereignty — just to get back at former president Duterte, or to fulfill contracts to demonize the Duterte name for the 2028 elections? Have they no shame?
Unlike the Americans, these little brown Americans don’t care about Philippine sovereignty and want the ICC to be the political assassin of one of our most effective and popular presidents.
And what happened to Bensouda’s announcement to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan? She never opened her mouth about it again. After her term ended in 2017, the new chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, shelved the investigation of US war crimes in Afghanistan, saying that it had been “deprioritized,” and that the “worst crimes” committed by the Taliban and the terrorist ISIL will first be investigated.
Last March, the ICC issued a warrant of arrest against Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova for the “unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
US President Joe Biden hailed the ICC decision, saying it was “justified.” A few months later, even if the US invade-the-Hague law is still in force, which bans any US agency from cooperating with the ICC, the Biden administration announced that the president will order US agencies to provide the ICC with evidence on Vladimir Putin’s war crimes.
That’s certainly emblematic of the US’ now-notorious system of double standards that the rules-based international order exists only when it does not hurt its national interest.
The ancient Greek historian Thucydides reported this practice more than 2,000 years ago: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
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