Pentagon accused of blocking effort to hand Russia war crimes evidence to ICC


New Delhi: The Pentagon has been accused of blocking the sharing of US intelligence with the Hague-based international criminal court (ICC) about Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

The Biden White House and State Department have advocated working with the ICC to hold Russian forces accountable for extensive war crimes, but the Defense Department has a staunch opposition on the grounds that the precedent could one day be used against US soldiers.

Pentagon resistance was the obstacle, The New York Times quoted current and former officials as saying.

According to the report, the national security council (NSC) convened a meeting of senior officials on 3 February to try to resolve the dispute, but that the defence secretary Lloyd Austin did not budge. Joe Biden has yet to give a final decision, the report added.

The Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who was behind a congressional resolution urging US support for the court over Ukraine, also blamed the Pentagon.

“DoD (Department of Defence) opposed the legislative change – it passed overwhelmingly – and they are now trying to undermine the letter and spirit of the law,” New York Times quoted Graham as saying.

“It seems to me that DoD is the problem child here, and the sooner we can get the information into the hands of the ICC, the better off the world will be,” Graham added.

NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Russian forces have been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people deserve justice.

“The United States supports a range of investigations to identify and hold accountable those who are responsible, including through the Office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, the United Nations, the expert missions established under the OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) ‘Moscow mechanism’, and the international criminal court, among others,” The Guardian quoted Watson as saying.

A senior defence official said told Guardian that “the defence department believes we should hold Russia accountable.”

Kamala Harris on war crimes

US Vice-President Kamala Harris, speaking at the Munich security conference in February,  had said that the US had determined that Russia had committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

“The US will continue to support the judicial process in Ukraine and international investigations, because justice must be served,” she added.

However, Harris did not specify cooperation with the ICC.

Last week, Beth van Schaack, US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, told a conference in Lviv, “The international criminal court occupies an important place in the ecosystem of international justice, and the United States supports the investigation by the ICC prosecutor.”

About ICC

The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal seated in The Hague, Netherlands.

It is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. It is distinct from the International Court of Justice, an organ of the United Nations that hears disputes between states.

US legal experts assisted in drafting the Rome law, which established the ICC. Bill Clinton signed it in 2000, but because the Senate did not approve it, Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, took the extraordinary step of rescinding the US’s signature.

US opponents of the court argued that it could be used by America’s enemies to prosecute US soldiers fighting in foreign wars, despite safeguards written into the statute stating that the international court would only have jurisdiction if the courts in a suspect’s home country were unwilling or unable to prosecute.

With inputs from agencies

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Pentagon accused of blocking effort to hand Russia war crimes evidence to ICC
Pentagon accused of blocking effort to hand Russia war crimes evidence to ICC
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