US threatens sanctions on ICC judges over Afghanistan war crimes probe


According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, during a speech to the conservative group Federalist Society on Monday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton was expected to say that the administration of US President Donald Trump would shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington.

"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court", a draft of Bolton's speech reads, according to Reuters.

"The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel", Bolton will say today, according to Reuters.

Citing anonymous Trump administration officials, the Washington Post reported that Bolton is also expected to announce that the "shutting down a Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington because Palestinians have sought to use the global court to prosecute USA ally Israel".

Just last month, it canceled more than $200 million in aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the remainder of its planned assistance for the United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees around the Middle East.

The accusation of breaking the US law came after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a September United Nations General Assembly speech that the Palestinians had "called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people". He also plans to threaten to impose sanctions against the International Criminal Court if it moves ahead with investigations of the USA and Israel, the paper said.

The Trump administration notified the Palestinians a year ago it will shutter their office in Washington unless they enter serious peace talks with Israel.

Presiding Judge Robert Fremr, centre, stands in the ICC courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands, on August 28.

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The PLO has been calling on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into actions by Israel.

The ICC, Bolton said, "is already dead to us".

Bolton added that the administration will not allow any ICC judges or prosecutors enter the country if the investigation launches. And we certainly will not join the ICC.

In addition, the United States may negotiate more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering Americans to the court, says the text.

The United States did not ratify the Rome treaty that established the International Criminal Court in 2002, with then-president George W Bush opposed to the court.

"Afghans have been waiting decades for justice for war crimes, including some allegedly committed by US forces", Heather Barr, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, wrote in response to the White House's plans.

The closure is part of a series of steps the US has taken that have been blows to the Palestinians. Senior diplomat Saeb Erekat decried the U.S. decision as designed "to protect Israeli crimes" and said that the move would not deter Palestinian legal action against Israel.

Trump last week ordered that $25 million USA earmarked for the care of Palestinians in East Jerusalem be directed elsewhere. "Overall, the decision puts the health of five million Palestinians at risk".