Newspaper article The Canadian Press

By Not Investigating the U.S. for War Crimes, the International Criminal Court Shows Colonialism Still Thrives in International

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

By Not Investigating the U.S. for War Crimes, the International Criminal Court Shows Colonialism Still Thrives in International

Article excerpt

By not investigating the U.S. for war crimes, the International Criminal Court shows colonialism still thrives in international


This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Authors: Helyeh Doutaghi, Doctoral Student, Carleton University and Jay Ramasubramanyam, Doctoral Candidate, Carleton University

On April 5, the United States revoked the visa of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, for her attempts to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan. A week later, judges at the ICC rejected Bensouda's request to open a probe into U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

While rights advocates condemned this move as amounting to U.S. interference in the workings of the ICC, it's more alarming than mere obstruction -- and is rooted in the pre-existing hierarchy and embedded colonial structures in international legal order.

Bensouda's visa revocation underscores the existing systematic inequality in international legal order. This is rooted in the presumed hierarchy by a group of elite nations that have dominated international order from a position of assumed racial, cultural, political, historical, material, economic and legal superiority.

These developments come in light of comments made by the Trump administration's national security advisor, John Bolton, who delegitimized the role of the ICC in a speech he delivered in September 2018. He said that "the U.S. will take any means necessary" to overcome "unjust prosecution by this illegitimate Court."

Countries like the U.S. have always enjoyed dominance through this presumed superiority, enabling them to suggest other nations are like-minded when it comes to the international legal order.

The U.S. and other powerful nations have not only been successful in maintaining the status quo of imbalance inherent in international law, but have also been instrumental in establishing the rules governing that legal order.

With tectonic political shifts across the world, the ICC's representatives -- and jurists like Bensouda -- represent some of the last vestiges of resisting the dominant global legal order by attempting to hold the West accountable for their transgressions in the global South.

Unfortunately, however, the Court's unwillingness to move beyond its imperial roots is evident from the decision to reject Bensouda's request. The ICC has blatantly redefined the notion of "justice" and has been preoccupied with African states while turning a blind eye to equally serious crimes committed by the U.S.

Meddling is routine

Needless to say, U.S. interference and intervention in dozens of sovereign nation states is commonplace. Meddling with the functioning of one of the highest judicial bodies in the world is therefore a familiar pattern of American supremacy in the

international legal order.

The move by the U.S. to revoke Bensouda's visa is an expression of that supremacy through intimidation and bullying of representatives of international institutions. However, it also

points to the U.S. wielding power in the age of its new-found sense of self-alienation, which manifests into ongoing imperialist tendencies that influence the decisions made by international institutions.

This perpetuates the West's practice and tendency to use global legal institutions such as the International Criminal Court to continuously persecute and demonize the global South. …

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