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Trump Administration Will Declare 'Superfluous' International Criminal Court at The Hague 'Illegitimate'

11 September 2018

The United States will threaten to impose sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) judges if they go ahead with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by us personnel in Afghanistan, Reuters reports.

The Trump administration on Monday threatened tough action against the International Criminal Court should it try to prosecute Americans for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and said the PLO's office in Washington would be closed for seeking to punish Israel through the court.

But John Bolton has pledged to use "any means necessary" to protect American citizens and their allies from being prosecuted there.

In November, the ICC prosecutor asked to investigate crimes allegedly committed by members of the US military who served in Afghanistan.

In a speech in Washington, Mr Bolton said: "If the court comes after us, we will not sit quietly".

Bolton threatened imposing harsh sanctions against the ICC in case it decides to move ahead with requests to investigate the United States and Israel. He promised to "take notes" of the countries cooperating with the ICC, warning that such behavior will affect their relations with the USA and might result in slashing the United States aid to such nations. "We will not join the ICC", Bolton said. "Palestinian are disappointed. They have been let down by their occupation, the worldwide community, and their own leaders".

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"The United States' attack on the International Criminal Court is an attack on millions of victims and survivors who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law and undermines decades of groundbreaking work by the international community to advance justice".

Bolton's speech will also announce Washington's plans to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office over concerns that it is attempting to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Yousef al-Mahmoud said the PLO office closure was 'a declaration of war on efforts to bring peace to our country and the region'. Although former US President Barack Obama at times cooperated with the ICC, his predecessor, George W. Bush, and his successor, Donald Trump, remained critical of the body.

The announced closure was the latest move by President Donald Trump to push the Palestinians into peace talks, toward what the U.S. president has termed the "ultimate deal".

"We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the United States and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation when setting U.S. foreign assistance, military assistance, and intelligence sharing levels", he said. There is potential for the USA to sanction judges, prosecutors and those who cooperate with such a probe.

In the wake of the U.S. Embassy move, Palestinian officials requested that the ICC open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO has maintained a "general delegation" office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials' interactions with the USA government.

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The PLO is a group in charge of the Palestinian people in the West Bank.

National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, Sept. 10, 2018.

The ICC is "antithetical" to US ideals, said Bolton.

Donald Trump's administration has closed the Palestinian mission in the USA after accusing it of failing to pursue peace with Israel.

The U.S. response could include sanctions against ICC judges should such prosecutions proceed, Bolton warned.

"It's a much more real policy matter now because of the potential liability in Afghanistan", a senior Trump administration official tells The Washington Post.

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"We can see it in the rhetoric already, the administration saying they are not committed to the peace process", he said.