UN Court Judge Quits Citing Interference in US War Crimes Probe
“The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat.”
A senior judge at the United Nation’s International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) has resigned from the Hague after facing political interference from the U.S. over a preliminary war-crime probe into U.S. troops in Afghanistan
Christoph Flugge, who is from Germany, has served at the I.C.C. and the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia since 2008. He recently got involved in a preparatory investigation into claims that the U.S. military and the CIA tortured prisoners in Afghanistan.
Flugge told German newspaper Zeit that he tendered his resignation letter after receiving an open threat from U.S. officials, including a speech from US National Security Advisor John Bolton last September, where the hawkish advisor ‘wished death’ on the I.C.C.
“If these judges ever interfere in the domestic concerns of the U.S. or investigate an American citizen, he said the American government would do all it could to ensure that these judges would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States – and that they would perhaps even be criminally prosecuted,” Flugge said in an interview translated by the Guardian.
Bolton had delivered his speech when the Hague was planning to hold a preliminary investigation into U.S. troops accused of torturing people in Afghanistan, Flugge added. He admitted being shocked by threats from the U.S. targeting international judges, as he has never heard such intimidation before.
US Never Fond of the ICC
In 2000, then U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that set up the International Criminal Court, but U.S. Congress never ratified it. The decision was later regretted by Bill’s wife, Hillary, who served as U.S. Secretary of State under the Barack Obama administration. Bill Clinton’s successor, George W.Bush, symbolically ‘did not sign’ the Statute in 2002, when the Afghanistan war was ongoing.
Bush’s announcement to send troops to Afghanistan was triggered by the 9/11 attack targeting the WTC tower in New York on September 11, 2001. The U.S. believed that the militant Islamist group Al-Qaeda was behind the attack that shocked the world and changed the global political landscape.
The Bush administration had issues with the I.C.C. after the Hague decided that the execution of a Mexican national in Texas violated U.S. obligations under international law.
Last October, the I.C.C. issued a ruling that ordered Washington to ensure sanctions imposed on Iran would not affect humanitarian assistance and civil aviation, a move that angered the Trump administration and propelled the U.S. to quit from the 1955 U.S. – Iran Amity Treaty.
Previously in September, Palestine urged the I.C.C. to investigate war crimes committed by Israel, including the demolition of a Palestinian village in the West Bank. A draft of a speech from Bolton in response to the Palestinian request was obtained by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. In the paper, Bolton threatened the I.C.C. if it dared to investigate the U.S. or Israel.
Other Nations Protest the ICC
The London Evening Post report on July 3, 2016, said former I.C.C. president, Silvia Alejandra Fernandez, received a bribe in her personal account to pay off key witnesses who stood against Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who was accused of war crimes and genocide in Darfur.
According to the Sudanese ambassador to Indonesia Abdul Rahim Al Siddig, the money was distributed by Sudan’s rebel groups, including the Sudanese Liberation Movement that operated in the conflict-prone area of Darfur.
Some African nations are not opposed to I.C.C. jurisdiction or ruling, but they instead protest double standards they see in Hague cases. They claim the I.C.C. tends to be harsh on African countries which have less power but not on other more powerful countries such as the U.S. or Russia.
In 2018, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte called on other nations to quit the Hague following the international judiciary’s plan to investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed by Duterte and his administration in an effort to combat drugs.
New Political Climate
While the I.C.C. has never been unanimously supported, Flugge, when announcing his resignation, referred to a new more threatening climate towards international courts.
“The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat,” he said.
In reference to Bolton’s death wish on the I.C.C., Flügge said the judges on the court had been “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery”.
“It is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law,’” he added.