A personal attorney of President Donald Trump has traveled to The Hague to contest an International Criminal Court (ICC) war crimes investigation targeting US forces overseas, arguing the body has no jurisdiction.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is set to make a second request to launch a full war crimes probe this week, after she was barred entry into the US to pursue an initial investigation in April and shot down by a panel of ICC judges. This time, one of the president’s personal lawyers, Jay Sekulow, will testify to challenge the move.
“The #ICC’s Prosecutor is seeking to investigate ‘war crimes’ charges against members of our #US Armed Forces,” Sekulow said in a tweet. “I’m in #TheHague right now, preparing to fight for the interests of our brave military & their freedoms.”
The #ICC’s Prosecutor is seeking to investigate “war crimes” charges against members of our #US Armed Forces. I’m in #TheHague right now, preparing to fight for the interests of our brave military & their freedoms. Lend your voice. Sign our petition now. https://t.co/1mN70DLbRl
— Jay Sekulow (@JaySekulow) December 2, 2019
The lawyer was allowed to file a “friend of the court” brief as an independent expert and says he will use his 10 minutes of testimony to defend American servicemen from accusations, insisting the ICC “has no jurisdiction over our soldiers.” Washington has not asked to present its own arguments separately, however, meaning Sekulow will respond to written arguments already submitted to the court.
Our case at the #ICC is possibly the most significant int’l case we’ve ever taken on. I am here in The Hague with our team, ready to appear in person at the ICC to defend our military’s interests. Your donations make an impact. Sign & donate today. https://t.co/8Cny6e4W4t
— Jay Sekulow (@JaySekulow) December 3, 2019
Based on preliminary evidence, prosecutors say they have indication US forces, including employees of the CIA, abused detainees in Afghanistan, which could rise to the level of a war crime.
President Trump has taken aim at the ICC previously, criticizing its “broad” and “unaccountable” prosecutorial powers, and has chafed at the idea of war crimes charges for American soldiers in general, even in US courts. Last month, the president pardoned two Army officers facing war crimes charges for their actions in Afghanistan, and reinstated the rank of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was accused of similar atrocities during his deployment in Iraq, but ultimately acquitted of most charges in court.
The military later ordered a review to consider expelling Gallagher from the SEALs before he retired, but President Trump intervened in the row and stopped the process dead in its tracks. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who was accused of working out a backroom deal with the White House to ensure Gallagher kept his credentials, was fired as a result.
The ICC first opened its doors in 2002, tasked with prosecuting war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity if they were carried out on the territory of any of its 123 members – including Afghanistan – or by a citizen of one of the body’s member states. While a signatory to the ICC, the United States (as well as Russia) never ratified the treaty which established the body, and does not consider itself legally bound by its rulings.
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