Attacking the International Criminal Court Makes the US Look Guilty and Desperate

Threatening Prosecutors is What the Mob Does

Update: A Federal Judge has now blocked the order:

This week, the Trump Administration announced sanctions against the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, and the head of one of the Court’s divisions, Phakiso Mochochoko. The sanctions block their financial assets and prohibiting US citizens from “having any dealings with them.”

Such sanctions are normally used for criminals and terrorists. Using them against a court is the international relations equivalent of a horse head in a bed. They represents a new low in US foreign policy and firmly place the US government in the category of rogue state.

The sanctions are directed against senior staff, but they could impact all ICC staff, including their families. Regular workers at the court now face possible consequences. These sanctions place the city of the Hague the government of the Netherlands, where the ICC is located, in an extremely sensitive position. Bensouda is a citizen of The Gambia, a US ally. Mochochoko is from Lesotho, also a US ally. Both countries have Peace Corps programs.

Why is the US government so hysterical about an international court? The ICC is currently investigating possible US war crimes in Afghanistan. By attacking the Court and personally threatening its top staff, the Trump administration is using a typical mob boss strategy to get a prosecutor to drop a case. Except usually the mob is smart enough to make its threats in private or anonymously. In this case, the US is making its threats public, on the world stage. If the US wanted to look guilty of war crimes, it could hardly have picked a better strategy.

Make no mistake, the ICC has come under intense US criticism before, criticism that has often bordered on hysteria. And many other countries have also been critical. In particular, many of the Court’s early cases were in Africa and many Africans felt this was unfair and racist. Criticism can be constructive. And when it’s not constructive, it can be ignored.

This is not criticism; it’s bullying and threats. It’s behavior befitting a mafia don, not a country. It’s also more than a little desperate, and very, very sad.