Pentagon blocks evidence of Russia's war crimes from International Criminal Court
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, is blocking the administration of President Joe Biden (D) from sharing evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, collected by U.S. intelligence agencies, with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the tribunal that prosecutes heinous human rights violations, The New York Times has reported.
The Pentagon is doing this because U.S. military leaders fear that it might help the ICC and other nations prosecute the U.S. in the future over its own past war crimes.
The evidence being withheld reportedly includes proof that Russian officials deliberately targeted civilian dwellings and infrastructure while also kidnapping thousands of Ukrainian children from occupied territories, the Times wrote.
In December 2022, Congress changed rules to enable the legislature to assist the ICC's investigation. But even though the rule changes passed on a large bipartisan vote, the Pentagon opposed the rule change and is "now trying to undermine the letter and spirit of the law," according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Even though in 2000, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton originally signed onto the Rome Statute that created the ICC, the United States' involvement wasn't ratified by the Senate. In 2002, then-U.S. President George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from ICC involvement, primarily over concerns that the U.S. could be prosecuted for war crimes after its then-coming 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The U.S. has acknowledged the ICC and even assisted with its investigation against African warlords under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. However, in 2017, when the ICC tried to investigate the U.S. torture of detainees during Bush's so-called "War on Terror," then-President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on ICC personnel and his Secretary of State denounced the ICC as "immoral."
Biden revoked Trump's sanctions, but the U.S. remained prohibited from funding and issuing other sorts of aid to the court. The December 2022 legislative vote changed it so that the U.S. could help the ICC investigate Russian war crimes.
However, the Pentagon has said that the U.S. shouldn't help the ICC investigate Russia, because Russia (like the U.S.) also withdrew its participation from the ICC and shouldn't be subject to its investigations. If Russia is, and the U.S. assists, then it also means that the ICC could one day investigate the United States, the Pentagon reasons, according to unnamed sources cited by the Times.
Russia has allegedly committed more than 65,000 war crimes in Ukraine, according to watchdog groups.
The progressive news site Common Dreams noted that author and war correspondent Megan K. Stack wrote on Twitter, that the Pentagon and U.S. approach to the ICC can be summed up thus: "Basically, [the U.S.] want others punished, but not ourselves."
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