The dubious decision by the International Criminal Court recently not to pursue the investigation and prosecution of alleged war crimes by the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan may very well signal the end of the International Criminal Court.
At a minimum, the decision undermines the ICC’s integrity and reputation by lending credence to suggestions the ICC focuses on ‘easy targets’ with its prosecutions, targeting disadvantaged nations and third world countries, but failing to investigate crimes committed by first world nations, and their leaders and militaries.
The court has more than 120 member nations, but some countries have refused to join it, including the US, Russia, China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel.
The US did sign up to the treaty during the Clinton administration, but Congress refused to ratify it. President George W. Bush’s administration opposed the ICC, fearing it could bring ‘politically motivated’ investigations and prosecutions of Americans, such as military officials. During the Obama administration the US took a softer position:
“Although the United States is not a party to the I.C.C.’s Statute, the Obama administration has been prepared to support the court’s prosecutions and provide assistance in response to specific requests from the I.C.C. prosecutor and other court officials, consistent with U.S. law, when it is in U.S. national interest to do so.”
This controversial call by the ICC is not entirely surprising, given it comes just a week after the US revoked ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s visa, widely seen as a response to her request to investigate possible crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan.
The ICC has been under intense and increasing political pressure from the US, and Donald Trump, recently not to investigate and prosecute US citizens for war crimes, but that’s precisely the point: if the ICC can’t rise above global politics and prosecute war crimes without fear or favour, this critical global institution immediately loses its moral mandate, and international standing.
Donald Trump has yet again proved there are no lows he won’t sink to, as demonstrated by his response to the news.
It’s one thing for him to trample on, and slowly undermine and destroy, the democratic norms and institutions of the US, after all the American people elected him.
However, when he undermines and destroys the reputation of arguably one of the most important international institutions when it comes to accountability for crimes against humanity, Donald Trump drags our entire humanity down to his own despicable standards, which is simply unacceptable.
It’s a tragedy the ICC has submitted to the whims and low ethical standards of Donald Trump, and his corrupt, unqualified administration, on this issue, a tragedy that will haunt humanity by making the ICC look biased and weak, leaving its reputation in tatters, and its effectiveness in serious doubt.