Sputnik/Moscow: On Thursday, President Trump issued an executive order authorizing economic sanctions and travel restrictions against the International Criminal Court investigators involved in probing US troops and intelligence personnel for possible war crimes in Afghanistan without US consent.
In a rare break with its US ally, London has expressed its support for the ICC, stressing that the legal body should be allowed to work impartially and without fear of sanctions in investigating international criminal activity.
“The UK strongly supports the International Criminal Court in tackling impunity for the worst international crimes,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement Saturday.
“We will continue to support positive reform of the court, so that it operates as effectively as possible. ICC officials should be able to carry out their work independently and impartially, and without fear of sanction,” Raab added.
Raab’s comments follow Thursday’s announcement by the Trump administration that it has authorized sanctions and travel restrictions against ICC officials investigating the activities of US military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan for possible war crimes. In a statement to the media following Trump’s signing of the executive order to that effect, Attorney General William Barr claimed that the US had substantial, credible information about alleged ‘financial corruption’ in the ICC that “calls into question the integrity of the ICC’s investigations.”
Along with the UK, France, another key US ally, has also expressed its disapproval over Washington’s decision. On Friday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the Trump administration’s actions an attack on the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and demanded an immediate withdrawal of sanctions measures.
The ICC expressed its “profound regret” over Washington’s “further threats and coercive actions,” but promised to continue its work.
United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, meanwhile, indicated that the ICC’s independence “and its ability to operate without interference must be guaranteed so that it can decide matters without any improper influence, inducement, pressures, threats or interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reasons.”
Long Build-up to Probe
In March, after years of preparation, the ICC launched a probe into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan going back to 2003, including the alleged torture of prisoners at secret CIA black site prisons in Eastern Europe, and criminal actions by US forces, Afghan troops and the Taliban. Before the probe’s approval, the US attempted to block investigative efforts and to issue individual restrictions against ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, denying her a US entry visa in 2019.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the “corrupt” ICC of going after America and “our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere,” stressing that Washington was “determined to prevent” this from happening. On Thursday, Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Tel Aviv and Washington had coordinated their actions to sanction the ICC. The ICC has a separate Israel investigation dedicated to alleged Israel crimes committed in “occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.” The Palestinian Authority formally joined the ICC in April 2015.
Britain’s Drone Programme May Be ‘Jointly Liable’ for US War Crimes, NGO Explains
Britain’s use of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) or armed drones in secret missions has been confirmed by the MoD. However the nature, location and scope of the missions, along with their legality and possible civilian causalities, remains a complete mystery according to a new report from Drone Wars UK.
The UK and US’s drone programmes share infrastructure, manufacturing, intelligence and coordination to such an extent that their two programmes are inextricably linked to each other, according to the latest report from the monitoring group Drone Wars UK. A Joint Enterprise: How the UK and the US co-operate on drone warfare is the product of 18 months investigation by the NGO which also includes responses to freedom of information requests submitted to the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) by Drone Wars UK.
Chris Cole, the director and founder of Drone Wars UK, explains to Sputnik that being embedded with the US drone programme including their bombing campaigns may well make Britain culpable in any crimes which are being committed.
Sputnik: What evidence is there of the UK’s armed drone programme being integrated with the US’s rather than being independent from it?
Chris Cole: Close historic ties, shared use of infrastructure and tightly integrated operations draw the two programmes together as a joint enterprise. This includes RAF pilots being embedded within the US Air Force operating US drones, and UK use of US communication and satellite infrastructure for UK operations.
Sputnik: Are US drones being operated from within the UK and why should it matter if they are?
Chris Cole: The US is not operating US drones from the UK, although US bases within the UK are being used to gather analysis and communicate intelligence.
Sputnik: Why should it matter whether Britain’s drone programme is “separate and independent” from the US drone programme?
Chris Cole: The US is engaged in drone strikes which are widely seen as in violation of international law. The UK has in the past distanced itself from these US targeted killings outside active areas of hostilities and is keen to be seen as separate and independent and not connected to this unlawful activity.
Sputnik: Explain what you mean when you say there may be “joint liability” as a result of the UK and US operating a jointly managed drone programme.
Chris Cole: Partners engaged in a joint enterprise can be said to be jointly complicit and would be liable legally. Whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden have shared evidence of UK involvement in US drone programmes, especially in regard to the provision of intelligence information on potential targets.
Sputnik: To what extent is the apparent use of UK drones on secret missions evidence of Britain’s independence, or lack thereof, in so far as their UAV programme is concerned?
Chris Cole: The secret missions are not apparent – their existence has been confirmed by the MoD. However they will not say where they are taking place or for what purpose.
It is possible these secret missions are closely tied to US drone operations, but we simply don’t know because of the secrecy. We are arguing that if the UK wants to verify and demonstrate its independence it has to be much more transparent.
Sputnik: If the use of drones in armed conflicts reduces the number of civilians killed, isn’t that a good thing?
Chris Cole: Drones are lowering the threshold for the use of armed force and transferring the cost of armed conflict from the shoulders of combatants onto civilians. Areas occupied by civilians which would not previously have come under aerial bombardment, are now doing so because of the narrative that drones are precise and ‘save’ civilians. The reality is, as journalists and casualty recorders have demonstrated over and over again, there are numerous civilian casualties from drone strikes.
Sputnik: What are you calling for now as a result of the findings of your report?
Chris Cole: We are calling for the UK government to be transparent about its drone operations – to details how many are deployed, where they are based, what is the purpose of the missions they are undertaking.
The UK should also ensure that intelligence supplied to the US is not used for operations that breach international law.
We also believe that due to the unique nature of drones, deployment of UK drones should be approved by parliament.
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