THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court on Tuesday said its work would continue “undeterred” after Washington threatened to prosecute its officials if Americans are charged with war crimes committed in Afghanistan.
“The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law,” the tribunal said in a statement.
The Hague-based court’s response comes a day after the United States threatened to arrest and sanction court officials should they move to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel, and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”
“If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” Bolton said.
The US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans, he added.
But in response, the ICC declared itself an “independent and impartial judicial institution.”
It also stressed that it would only investigate and prosecute crimes when the states will not or can not do so.
The Hague-based ICC was set up in 2002 with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the world’s worst crimes including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
The court, however, does not have the capacity to arrest suspects and depends on member states for their cooperation.
The United States has not signed up to the court and in 2002 Congress passed a law enabling Washington to invade the Netherlands to liberate any US citizen held by the court.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that he had filed a case with the International Criminal Court in the Hague over what he termed as “Israeli war crimes” at a West Bank Bedouin village that is due to be razed Wednesday.
“We call on the International Criminal Court to expedite the opening of the investigation into Israel’s crimes,” Erekat said at a press conference in Ramallah.
The dossier submitted “included a focus on the war crimes facing Khan al-Ahmar, specifically the crimes of forcible displacement, ethnic cleansing, and the destruction of civilian property,” Erekat said.
n a ruling last week the High Court of Justice cleared the way for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, rejecting a final appeal in a case that has drawn international criticism.
There has been strong international pressure on Israel to reverse its plans to raze the village, which Israeli authorities say was built illegally. Sitting east of Jerusalem, the village is located near several major Israeli settlements and close to a highway leading to the Dead Sea.
The state says the structures, mostly makeshift shacks and tents, were built without permits and pose a threat to the village residents because of their proximity to a highway.