Bolton to ICC Judges: Go After US, and You'll Pay

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem

In a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in Washington, DC, on Monday, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened sanctions against the ICC judges who plan to probe alleged war crimes committed by Americans in Afghanistan, saying it constitutes an assault on USA sovereignty.

National security adviser John Bolton calls on a reporter during a news conference after speaking at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington.

"To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a USA peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise", department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO mission in Washington, called the closure of the office "bullying and blackmailing" and said the U.S. government was "blindly executing Israel's 'wish list'".

The move comes after Palestinian officials urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli officials for "war crimes" throughout the region.

The PLO denounced the decision to close its Washington offices.

In announcing the new policy toward the ICC, national security adviser John Bolton cited the court's November 2017 request to prosecute American armed-service members and intelligence personnel for alleged war crimes committed during the conflict in Afghanistan.

"When will the worldwide community say enough is enough & force U.S. to act like a normal state?" he asked.

But at a press conference in Ramallah, Saeb Erekat doubled down by saying the Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel's planned demolition of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar in the West Bank.

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in 2002, but the U.S. did not ratify it as President George W Bush opposed the body.

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The United States has not signed up to the court and in 2002 Congress passed a law technically enabling Washington to invade the Netherlands to liberate any U.S. citizen, should they be held by the court. Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO has maintained a "general delegation" office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials' interactions with the USA government.

It will be his first major address since joining the Trump White House.

Judges and prosecutors with the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be barred from entering the USA and their funds in the U.S. would be sanctioned.

This follows moves by President Donald Trump to end funding for the United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees, slash US aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza and cut funding to hospitals in Jerusalem that serve Palestinians.

And despite the expected criticism of the Trump administration's decision Bolton noted the U.S.is part of a majority of court skeptics. "We will provide no assistance to the ICC".

Reuters got their hands on an advanced copy of Bolton's speech, and it includes threats of sanctions against ICC judges and prosecutors, as well as a promise to "fight back"-whatever that means". The Palestinians accused the administration of dismantling decades of USA engagement with them.

According to a draft of the speech seen by Reuters, the Neo-Con ideologue is expected to warn the ICC that the USA will fight back using any means necessary if the ICC ever dares to probe an American or Israeli, and will punish those who cooperates with war-crime investigations.

Bolton added that US officials will work with the United Nations Security Council to limit the court's sweeping powers.

"We negotiated about 100 binding, bilateral agreements to prevent other countries from delivering USA personnel to the ICC", Bolton said. Abdallah Abu Rahmeh said the white shipping containers, one with a Palestinian flag, were a message to Israel that "it's our right to build on our land".

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