By David Morales Urbaneja
The Hague, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- The International Criminal Court’s presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji says United States sanctions on its personnel are a “direct, undisguised attack on the rule of law” and that it will continue doing its work.
“We are particularly disappointed because they seem to have forgotten that the court was set up for the specific purpose of affording a place of justice,” he tells Efe in an interview.
“A last place of resort for justice, for victims of great, grave violations like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“It is not unheard of for countries to express a disagreement with the judgement of a court of law. That happens all the time even in national jurisdictions,” he adds.
“But the idea of exalting coercive action against the court of law in order to stop it from doing its job of justice, is unheard of.”
The relationship between the ICC in the Hague and Washington became tense after the Office of the Prosecutor announced an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, a country that unlike the US accepts the jurisdiction of the international court.
Prosecutors believe there is evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity were carried out by American troops, Taliban fighters and government loyalists in the conflict.
President Donald Trump responded by imposing sanctions and threatening visa restrictions against personnel working in the investigation.
The United Nations expressed its concern over Trump’s decision and the European Union has urged him to reverse it.
Eboe-Osuji has called the court’s 123 signatory nations to speak up against the move.
“This now sets a precedent in international law that requires state parties to stand up and say we do not agree with this precedent that has been set,” he added.
“If they don’t do that they will run the risk of other countries starting copying this behaviour.
“If they start copying it then the question arises as to whether we are now in the zone for a new norm in international law — and heaven forbid that we get to that point.”
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo described the measures against the ICC as “sanctions” but Eboe-Osuji rejects the term.
“You use the word coercion to describe actions you take to compel a rogue country or rogue entity into complying with international law or with accepted rules of conduct,” he said.
“You do not use the term sanction to describe coercive measures intended to interfere or obstruct the judicial independence of an international court of law.”
The ICC acts as a court of last resort that it does not intervene if a country decides to handle legal cases with its national judicial institutions.
Afghanistan has asked the OTP for more time to file the necessary information on the advances it has made in its own investigation on the case in question.
Eboe-Osuji said the central Asian country could follow the example set by Colombia, which designed its own legal framework to deal with crimes committed during the conflict in the South American nation, meaning the ICC did not need to open it’s own investigations.