US intimidation of ICC: states must push back

ICC office - The Netherlands

FIDH  /  March 24, 2020


International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) notes with great concern the Trump administration’s escalating threats against the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In remarks to the press delivered on 17 March by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, intimidation of ICC staffers reached a new low in specifically naming two individuals from the Office of the Prosecutor before extending threats to them and their families. This follows earlier measures taken by the US administration last year against the ICC and the Prosecutor, with the latter’s US visa punitively revoked for intending to investigate, independently and impartially, crimes allegedly committed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and US military forces in the Afghanistan conflict.

Such blatant, thug-like tactics must be strongly condemned by the international community as abhorrent attacks against the fundamental principles of the rule of law. These principles clearly state that no one is above the law, that crimes that have shaken the conscience of humanity must not go unpunished. The vow of 123 nations to put an end to impunity by creating an international, independent Court mandated to investigate atrocities—whoever the perpetrator—must be upheld through urgent and meaningful action. This entails unwavering support to the Court and its personnel who have been mandated by the States Parties to realise that vision. This vow must be honoured; the legacy, integrity and future of the Rome Statute system are at stake. So are the prospects of truth, justice and remedy for the thousands of victims whose last resort to justice is the ICC.

In his remarks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Court an “embarrassment” and a “political body” before rejecting the jurisdiction of the Court for simply not placing the conduct of US nationals above the law. Despite claiming that nationals allegedly responsible for crimes in the Afghanistan conflict will be held responsible before American courts, the administration has thus far refused to prosecute these crimes, an unfortunate stain on the country’s human rights record. Moreover, the US double standard in supporting ICC interventions in some situations, while rejecting them in others—notably where those scrutinised are nationals of the US and its allies—casts further doubt on its motivations and respect for the rule of law.

States Parties’ failure to adequately respond to the blatant attempt to dismantle the work of generations to build a global system for accountability and the rule of law is, simply put, embarrassing. States’ deafening silence on the matter could pave the way for a return to the rule of the jungle where the powerful enjoy impunity while those who lack it are denied justice and redress.

Since the Court’s inception, States Parties have played an instrumental role in shaping the Court’s operations and future. While we recognise States’ efforts to better the Court’s performance, they must re-examine and step up their responses to threats against the Court—threats that are unrelenting and escalating. It is now imperative that States Parties stand firmly with the Court by defending, publicly and bilaterally, its integrity, mandate and operations.

Our Federation renews its support to the Court and its mission and condemns any attempts to undermine it, including and most notably through the intimidation of its personnel and the threats against their families.