News and Commentary

Trump Administration Warns Anti-U.S. International Criminal Court: We’ll Hit Your Officials With Sanctions If You Target U.S.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, left, listens during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, May 29, 2020.
Photo by Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Thursday, the Trump administration targeted the International Criminal Court, which has a decidedly anti-American bent, threatening ICC officials with sanctions if they pursue charges of war crimes against the United States and its allies. President Trump’s executive order would permit the State and Treasury Departments to block the financial assets of an ICC official who “directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States” or “directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any personnel of a country that is an ally of the United States without the consent of that country’s government.”

The Washington Free Beacon noted, “The ICC is pursuing charges against the United States for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. It also is investigating a case against Israel for its military action in the Palestinian-controlled territories.”

In May, the Free Beacon reported, “The International Criminal Court is working alongside several organizations and individuals tied to terrorism as it seeks to prosecute American and Israeli personnel for war crimes, according to a new report out of Israel … The report—from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) … concludes that under the leadership of Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the ICC collaborated with terror-tied groups to pursue charges against American and Israeli military officials it claims are guilty of committing war crimes against civilians, including in Afghanistan and Palestinian territories.”

President Trump’s executive order stated clearly that the ICC’s actions “threaten to infringe upon the sovereignty of the United States”:

I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that the situation with respect to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its illegitimate assertions of jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and certain of its allies, including the ICC Prosecutor’s investigation into actions allegedly committed by United States military, intelligence, and other personnel in or relating to Afghanistan, threatens to subject current and former United States Government and allied officials to harassment, abuse, and possible arrest. These actions on the part of the ICC, in turn, threaten to infringe upon the sovereignty of the United States and impede the critical national security and foreign policy work of United States Government and allied officials, and thereby threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States. The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, has never accepted ICC jurisdiction over its personnel, and has consistently rejected ICC assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel.

The order continued:

Furthermore, in 2002, the United States Congress enacted the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (22 U.S.C. 7421 et seq.) which rejected the ICC’s overbroad, non-consensual assertions of jurisdiction. The United States remains committed to accountability and to the peaceful cultivation of international order, but the ICC and parties to the Rome Statute must respect the decisions of the United States and other countries not to subject their personnel to the ICC’s jurisdiction, consistent with their respective sovereign prerogatives. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those responsible for the ICC’s transgressions, which may include the suspension of entry into the United States of ICC officials, employees, and agents, as well as their immediate family members …

I therefore determine that any attempt by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States, or of personnel of countries that are United States allies and who are not parties to the Rome Statute or have not otherwise consented to ICC jurisdiction, constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany stated, “Despite repeated calls by the United States and our allies to reform, the International Criminal Court has taken no action to reform itself and continues to pursue politically-motivated investigations against us and our allies, including Israel. We are concerned that adversary nations are manipulating the International Criminal Court by encouraging these allegations against United States personnel. Further, we have strong reason to believe there is corruption and misconduct at the highest levels of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor, calling into question the integrity of its investigation into American service members.”

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