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Editorial

September 17, 2018

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ICC vs the US

The attitude of the US regarding the International Criminal Court – or indeed any international accountability organisation – has always been one of breathtaking hypocrisy. Even as it refuses to join the ICC or allow it to investigate its or its allies actions, the superpower is happy to tout the court’s judgements against its political enemies. Only last week, US National Security Adviser and noted warmonger John Bolton made plain the hostility the US feels towards any suggestion that his country may be called to account for its numerous war crimes. In response to an announcement by the ICC that it would investigate war crimes in Afghanistan – including those allegedly perpetrated by the US – Bolton denounced the court as illegitimate and even threatened to bar the ICC’s judges and prosecutors from entering the US. As if on cue, the US State Department, to ensure the supply of military aid, absurdly certified that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is trying to reduce civilian casualties, showing that the US uses human rights processes as a cover for abuse by itself and its allies.

The work the ICC does is vital. It has investigated and indicted numerous individuals for their involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But is has also been justly criticised for singling out African countries. This is largely because the US, China, Russia, India and Israel have all refused to join the ICC. For the organisation to be perceived as even-handed, it is vital that it continue its investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan and expand its focus to include Gaza, Iraq and other wars waged by the West.

There is certainly a lot for the ICC to investigate in Afghanistan. It could start with the torture chambers of Bagram or the 2007 Helmand province airstrikes or even what was likely the deliberate bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz in 2015. The war on terror has been so criminal from its very inception that an entirely new vocabulary has had to be constructed to sanitise the actions of the US. From ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ as euphemism for torture to ‘extraordinary rendition’ as a justification for kidnapping, the US has tried to disguise its actions with bureaucratic language. John Bolton himself is a key collaborator in the war crimes of the US, having served as UN ambassador under George W Bush. The US knows that if it abides by the same standards as the rest of the world most of its presidents and top officials would end up in the dock. That, and that alone, is what spurred this latest attack on the International Criminal Court.

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