The U.S. Needs a Better Strategy for Combating the International Criminal Court

September 4, 2020 | Orde Kittrie
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This week, the State Department announced that it is sanctioning the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and another official, after they decided to investigate American military personnel. The move reflects Washington’s longstanding, bipartisan opposition to the court. While recognizing the importance of curbing the ICC’s lawlessness, Orde Kittrie suggests alternative means of doing so:

The stakes for U.S. and Israeli security are high. . . . Experts have speculated that the ICC could indict former president George W. Bush and former CIA directors, including George Tenet, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Israel faces similar risks. Its government has reportedly prepared a list of several hundred current and former Israeli officials, including the prime minister, who could be subject to arrest abroad if the ICC moves forward against Israel.

The United States can more effectively attempt to block the ICC’s illegitimate investigations by building on bipartisan support at home and leveraging common ground with allies. The United States should emphasize that potential ICC steps forthcoming in 2020 that are hostile to American interests could cause damage to the court’s relationship with the United States in ways that would outlast the current administration.

In recent years, more than half the ICC’s 155 million-euro annual budget has come from a handful of close U.S. allies: Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, and Spain. These allies can remind the ICC of the substantively strong arguments that its investigations of the United States and Israel are contrary to its own rules and clash with its founding principles. By steering the ICC away from confrontation with the United States, these allies can protect their own overseas military personnel from problematic precedents.

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