Last week, John Bolton gave his first major address as National Security Adviser to President Trump, announcing a new U.S. policy toward the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the court, based in The Hague, tasked with investigating and bringing to justice individuals who are suspected of crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes.
The new U.S. policy toward the court is nothing if not clear. The policy is complete opposition; reversing the previous administration’s posture of “principled engagement.” The new position is based on conflicting claims that the court is both ineffective and a threat to U.S. sovereignty. More specifically, the administration is concerned that U.S. soldiers could be indicted for war crimes in Afghanistan or Israeli soldiers could be brought before the court for human rights violations against Palestinians.
Such cases would be highly unlikely if at all possible. The ICC only hears cases of mass genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity - and only then in countries in its jurisdiction that refuse to make good faith efforts to investigate such crimes. As the court’s mandate explains, the ICC is a court of “last resort” that seeks to “complement, not replace, national Courts.”
The United Church of Christ has long supported the work of the International Criminal Court, as reflected in our 2005 General Synod resolution. Our support for the ICC is a reflection of our faith values that calls us to defend the most vulnerable, uphold human rights, and build a world in which peace and justice are intertwined (Psalm 85:10) in the vision of Just Peace.
At a time in which human rights and international institutions are under attack, we must speak out to affirm such values and institutions, asserting with clarity our commitment to building a Just World for All.