U.S. imperialism and the "kangaroo court"

The International Criminal Court in The Hague
Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has announced he is seeking arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Galant for crimes including ‘starvation’, ‘wilful killing’ and ‘extermination and/or murder’. He has also requested arrest warrants for three senior leaders of Hamas

The request for arrest warrants against Israel's prime minister and defence minister as well as three Hamas leaders is undoubtedly a historic step. For the first time, the head of state of a U.S. ally could stand trial

Commentary by Shady Lewis Botros

"Europe must acknowledge that the United States has global responsibilities that create unique circumstances. For example, we are more vulnerable to the misuse of an international criminal court because of the international role we play and the resentments that flow from that ubiquitous presence around the world. That does not mean, in my opinion, that the United States should walk out of the International Criminal Court. But it does mean we have legitimate concerns that the world should address, and it is fair to ask that there be sensitivity to those concerns that are really focused on the fact that the United States is active on every continent in the world."

These were the words spoken by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her campaign for the presidential nomination in 2005. They suggest that the historical "white man's burden" has become an "American burden" and that the United States sees itself as a global police force with responsibility for the entire world. This burden is inextricably linked to the nation's "white fragility".

Clinton claimed that the global presence of U.S. troops made her country a target of anger and therefore more susceptible to the abuse of international justice. The world therefore needed to take the special sensitivity of the USA into account and find a fair way of dealing with it, and not the other way around.

The issue of the International Criminal Court and the possibility of U.S. soldiers having to answer to it under the Rome Statute is a perennial issue in U.S. election campaigns. The quote from Clinton accurately reflects the sovereignty principle in political philosophy, but on an international, or rather imperialist, level. This principle proposes that the sovereign entity, as the originator and executor of the law, must stand above the law and transcend it. According to this notion, the USA and its army are therefore above international justice, as they are resolutely working to apply it to others.

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ICC founded "for Africa and thugs like Putin and not for the West and its allies"

"Kangaroo court" is an ironic term for irregular, arbitrary court proceedings and probably dates back to Great Britain in the 18th century, when thousands were sentenced to deportation to the Australian penal colonies in spurious summary proceedings.

In June 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the International Criminal Court and its then Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The background was an anticipated investigation into U.S. soldiers for war crimes in Afghanistan. Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the court in this instance as a "kangaroo court".

Over the years, the position taken by the United States on the International Criminal Court has been situational and selective. On the one hand, Washington enthusiastically welcomed the Court's decisions on the genocide in Darfur and later the arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the war in Ukraine.

On the other hand, the U.S. administration has always firmly opposed the possibility of U.S. citizens being summoned to appear before the ICC. Several foreign policy measures have been undertaken to prevent this, including forcing the governments of other states to sign clauses precluding the extradition of U.S. citizens to the Court. Those who refused to sign were penalised with cuts in U.S. aid or other sanctions.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the international court of criminal law
Karim Khan, chief prosecutor with the ICC: Washington is considering sanctioning the International Criminal Court over its request to issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials and Hamas leaders (image: Peter Dejong/REUTERS)

Karim Khan: I received threats ... "The tribunal is for Africa and Putin"

Before the current prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, announced his application for an arrest warrant against the Israeli prime minister and defence minister, he and some of the court's judges received threats, some of them publicly from members of the U.S. Congress and others through unofficial channels. In an interview with CNN, Khan said a high-ranking figure had told him that the court had been established "for Africa and thugs like Putin and not for the West and its allies".

So here we have another episode in the series of confrontations between the U.S. empire and international justice. There is no doubt that the action against Israeli politicians and, for the first time, the head of state of a U.S. ally is a historic step, albeit a symbolic one. The empire with its capital in Washington sees the ICC merely as a kangaroo court to be used solely against its opponents.

Shady Lewis Botros

© Qantara.de 2024

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

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