On 22 September this year, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, received an email from the Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa New Zealand also published on Scoop and on Kia Ora Gaza’s website regarding a speech made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton to the Federalist Society on 10 September, in which he outlined the Trump Administration’s clear commitment to undermine the efforts of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to provide justice for those who are victims of alleged serious international crimes.
We asked Mr Peters for a clear and reasonably prompt response to our questions concerning the alarming tenor of Bolton’s speech and present US policy regarding US relations with the ICC. We also asked the Foreign Affairs Minister for clear indications of New Zealand’s policy in defence of Palestinian human rights and international law. We also explained that our readers would be informed accordingly. The Foreign Affairs Minister took over two months to respond to our questions. Below please read: First, the full text of the email we sent to Winston Peters, followed by what could only be described as a perfunctory and dismissive reply from the Foreign Affairs Minister that made no attempt to answer any of our questions.
Open Request to Winston Peters for clear statement of policy regarding US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s speech to the Federalist Society
From Leslie Bravery,
Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa New Zealand
22 September 2018
We ask you to respond to a speech made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton to the Federalist Society on 10 September 2018, in which he outlined the Trump Administration’s clear commitment to undermine the efforts of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to provide justice for those who are victims of alleged serious international crimes. Mr Bolton made specific reference to Israel in the speech, criticising the possibility of an ICC investigation into alleged international crimes committed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, including a possible investigation into the construction of illegal settlements, which he referred to as ‘housing projects’. John Bolton’s speech also referred to the United States’ decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Office in Washington DC as being partly due to the PLO’s intention to engage the ICC in a criminal investigation.
Particularly alarming were the threats made by Mr Bolton as he reached the conclusion of his speech, when he said:
“This afternoon, we also make a new pledge to the American people. If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies we will not sit quietly. We will take the following steps, among others, in accordance with the American Service Members Protection Act and other legal authorities.
“We will negotiate even more binding bilateral legal agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering US persons to the ICC and we will ensure those we already have entered are honoured by our counterpart governments.
“We will respond against the ICC and its personnel to the extent permitted by US law.
“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States.
“We will sanction their funds in the US financial system and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system.
“We will do the same for any company or State that assists an ICC investigation of Americans. We will take note if any countries co-operate with ICC investigations of the US and its allies and we will remember that co-operation when setting US foreign assistance, military assistance and intelligence sharing levels . . .”
Such language expressed towards independent prosecutors, members of the judiciary, sovereign states and a legitimately-constituted international court, dedicated to justice and the rule of law, calls into question whether the United States remains committed to the demand for accountability for crimes that violate international law. The New Zealand Government has a clear duty to disassociate itself from such destabilising views.
We urge our government to make clear New Zealand’s position regarding our country’s support for the ICC, and we ask for clear answers to the following questions:
■ will the New Zealand Government provide a public statement reaffirming our robust and unwavering commitment to securing justice for victims and survivors of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity?
■ will the New Zealand Government publicly express opposition to the steps announced by the US Government National Security Adviser, Mr John Bolton, that the US will prosecute and place other sanctions against ICC personnel, including prosecutors and Judges, and also nations or companies who support ICC investigative efforts?
■ is the New Zealand Government willing to urge, both directly and at international fora, that the US reverse its opposition to the ICC and abandon the threat of punitive measures?
■ will the New Zealand Government declare that it supports the work of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in examining alleged serious international crimes committed in the Occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza? We also ask the Government to further affirm that such support would also extend, in principle, to a possible decision to open any full criminal investigation.
We ask for a clear and reasonably prompt response to this request, and our readers will be informed accordingly. The full text of Bolton’s speech can be read here:
Winston Peters’ reply to our email:
Dear Leslie Bravery
Thank you for your email of 22 September 2018
New Zealand is a long-standing supporter of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its mandate to bring those responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern to account.
As a member of the ICC, New Zealand continues to support the Court in the exercise of this core mandate.
[Dated 26 November 2018]