The US has finally actualised its threat to impose sanctions on senior officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC), including chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
The court’s ‘crime’, according to the US, is to make “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction”. Bensouda is investigating whether US troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
These sanctions deserve the strongest condemnation as they are not only an attack on the ICC officials but also on the international justice system.
The US claims ICC cannot investigate its nationals as it is not a state party to the Rome Statute. But although it is not a state party, ICC has powers to investigate and prosecute citizens of a non-member country who commit crimes on the territory of an ICC member country like Afghanistan.
While it is the duty of the US, under international law, to investigate allegations of abuse levelled against its citizens, there is a feeling that it has fallen short in this respect. That is what prompted the ICC to step in. Under the 'principle of complementarity', the court is allowed to intervene if a country is unwilling or genuinely unable to investigate and prosecute crimes.
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If anything, imposing sanctions on Bensouda exposes the double-faced nature of the world’s strongest nation when it comes to dealing with human rights abuses and the ICC. America is a strong advocate of justice and human rights. It is known for swiftly cutting links with governments that violate human rights. But paradoxically, it appears to tolerate violations committed by its military personnel outside the US as in this case. It puts 'America First'.
This begs the question: Who will serve justice to victims of American citizens abroad when the US drags feet or is reluctant to do so? It speaks volumes that no one has lifted a finger against former President George Bush and his administration 17 years after the US invaded Iraq, leading to deaths and destruction on a massive scale, after falsely accusing the country of having weapons of mass destruction.
Interestingly, the US has in the past egged on the ICC to investigate crimes in other countries. When the court was carrying investigations in Kenya, for instance, President Obama urged Kenya to "cooperate fully with the ICC".
US double-speak on the ICC and double-standards when it comes to dealing with rights abuses by its citizens abroad makes many to question its seriousness about the democratic values it relentless preaches about. It's hypocritical for the US to support ICC only when it's convenient. America should desist from talking out of both sides of the mouth and embrace ICC. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.