Donald Trump lunges from one controversy to another. Thursday’s move has profound implications from the judicial perspective. The President of the United States of America has now targeted the International Criminal Court in the wake of the latter’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan carried out by all sides, including the US.
For the head of the executive to sue the world’s fountain-head of judicial authority calls for a degree of chutzpah that is very seldom manifest, and justifiably so. Remarkably sweeping is the agenda of the White House.
The US will not merely impose sanctions on ICC officials involved in the investigation of alleged war crimes by the US and its allies; it will also impose visa restrictions on the families of those officials. Additionally, the administration has signalled its intent to launch a counter-investigation into the functioning of ICC, for alleged corruption.
The ICC was also attacked by the Attorney-General for what he called its “long history of corruption and malfeasance”. President Trump had fielded the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, Defence Secretary, Mark Esper, and Attorney-General, William Barr, to break the news.
Surprisingly enough, these worthies who represent Trump’s cabal, left without taking any questions on so pregnant an issue. The world has the right to know more about the decision, and it is pretty obvious that the briefing for the world press was conducted on terms set by Mr Trump. Has a fair measure of information been kept under the hat?
Any answer to this query is rather unlikely to be forthcoming anytime soon. It was fairly clear from the thrust of the briefing that this is the beginning of a sustained campaign against the ICC. Short of being explicit, William Barr has echoed the perception of the President ~ “The US government has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC.
The Department of Justice has received substantial credible information that raises serious concerns about a long history of financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of the office of the prosecutor.” Strong words, albeit not substantiated with a scintilla of evidence, let alone any mention of the “unaccountable international elites”.
Ergo, the nature of the presentation turned out to be rather generic, if not vague. It is hard not to wonder if the US President is playing directly into the hands of authoritarian regimes by intimidating judges and prosecutors committed to holding countries accountable for war crimes. The White House plot thickens. It is a reckless move, to say the least.