Sixty-seven member states of the International Criminal Court have provided support behind the body, following an unprecedented decision by the United States to impose sanctions on its staff.
In a joint statement by Costa Rica and Switzerland, more than half of the 123 ICC members showed their “unwavering support” for the court and the Rome Statute that created it, according to judge O-Gon Kwon , President of the Assembly of States Parties and represents South Korea.
“We reconfirm our unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution,” said the statement. Kwon is a famous jurist known to be one of the judges for the war crimes trial of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic
The Hague-based ICC is “an integral part” of the international judicial order and “a central institution in the fight against impunity,” the statement added.
The signatories are Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Tunisia.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has said it opposes the ICC because it fears what it calls politically motivated lawsuits against the United States and its ally, Israel. The United States does not recognize the court.
Two weeks ago, Trump signed an executive order authorizing the freezing of assets and travel restrictions against ICC employees involved in an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by U.S. forces.
67 States parties joined the declaration today to show their continued support for the Court and the Rome Statute system. Thank you to Costa Rica and Switzerland for their initiative! pic.twitter.com/G07Kk850nZ
O-Gon Kwon (@ICC_PASP) June 23, 2020 An “ unacceptable ” American decision
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including mass killings of civilians by Taliban fighters, as well as allegations of torture of prisoners by the Afghan authorities and, in a lesser measure, by US forces and the CIA.
The ICC investigation was approved in March.
The ICC has faced unprecedented attacks from several member countries in recent years. Bensouda has also been targeted by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte for his role in the investigation of extrajudicial executions allegedly linked to the “war on drugs” which lasted almost four years.
Duterte later announced the withdrawal of the Philippines from the international body.
In announcing Trump’s executive order, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We cannot, we will not stand because our people are threatened by a kangaroo court.”
Richard Dicker, director of international justice at Human Rights Watch, said the joint statement “sends the crucial message” that ICC member states “have their backs to the court” and “will not be intimidated in their commitment to see justice “.
“This statement is very important because the ICC member states around the world, including the main American allies, are speaking.”
Earlier, Josep Borrell, the highest diplomat in the European Union, condemned the American decision as “unacceptable and unprecedented in its scope and content”.
“At a time when the rules-based international order faces increased pressure, strengthening the international criminal justice system is more important than ever.”
The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity when the perpetrators cannot otherwise be brought to justice. It is a court of last resort which only intervenes when a state is unable or unwilling to prosecute serious crimes.
Currently, 123 states around the world recognize its jurisdiction.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies
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