The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has condemned attacks by the Trump administration as ‘machiavellian’ attempts to stop the court doing its work. Dr Fatou Bensouda vowed not to be deflected from a prospective investigation into allegations of war crimes by US military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan.
The US is refusing to cooperate with the court in any way. Last month national security adviser John Bolton said if the ICC carries out the investigation, the US will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the country, freeze any funds they have in US financial institutions and attempt to prosecute them in US courts.
The US is not a state party to the Rome statute which founded the ICC, but Afghanistan is a signatory. The ICC prosecutor requested in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.
At an IBA lunchtime session, Bensouda said Bolton’s attack had prompted an outpouring of support from states, international organisations and NGOs. 'By the very nature of what we do, holding to account those who bear responsibility for atrocities and crimes of aggression, there is bound to be push back,’ she said. 'We have seen it from my own continent [Africa]. The recent attacks by Mr Bolton are Machiavellian attempts to stop the court doing its work. These words will not deter us.’
Bensouda is awaiting a grant of authorisation from judges to proceed with the inquiry. She voiced confidence that this will be forthcoming.
The prosecutor, who was a government minister and chief legal adviser in Gambia before joining the ICC in 2012, went on to rebut the recurrent criticism that the court overly focuses on Africa. She alluded to recent action on alleged crimes in Venezuela, Georgia, Colombia and Myanmar.
Bensouda, does, however want more vigorous backing from signatory states and the UN Security Council. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, it was noted, continues to travel freely in defiance of an ICC arrest warrant. ‘The states that created the court have a responsibility to execute its decisions,’ said Bensouda. ‘We don’t have an army or a police force, the executing arm is the states themselves.
‘I have been urging the Security Council to act; it can do much more than it is currently doing.’