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International Criminal Court Says It Is Undeterred By U.S. Threat Of Sanctions

The International Criminal Court in The Hague

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it will "continue to do its work undeterred," responding a day after U.S. national security adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions if the tribunal investigates alleged war crimes by U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for The Hague-based court, which investigates genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, told RFE/RL on September 11 that it was an "independent and impartial judicial institution" with the backing of 123 countries.

"The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred," Fadi El Abdallahhe added.

France issued a statement in support of the court, with a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman saying it "must be able to act and exercise its prerogatives without hindrance."

The United States is among dozens of countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute that established the ICC in 2002.

In remarks on September 10, Bolton called the ICC "unaccountable" and "outright dangerous" to the United States and Israel and other allies.

"For all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us," he told the conservative Federalist Society in Washington. "If the court comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies, we will not sit quietly," he warned.

The U.S. national security adviser said Washington was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on ICC officials if they proceed against any Americans.

"We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system," Bolton said.

An ICC prosecutor requested in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.

Bolton said neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC's Rome Statute has requested an investigation. But he said the ICC could formally open the investigation "any day now."

The head of Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission suggested that Bolton’s criticism of the ICC could strengthen a climate of impunity in the war-torn country.

"It's very unfortunate because delivering justice to victims will help to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan," Sima Samar told AP on September 11. "Justice is not a luxury. It is a basic human right.”

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan