It has been my honor since 2012 to serve as the Special Adviser to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict. But soon I may be forced to stop by order of President Donald J. Trump.
In a new Executive Order, Trump declared that ICC investigations implicating “personnel of the United States and certain of its allies … threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” To repeat: he declared the work of the ICC, an atrocity-fighting institution to which two-thirds of the world’s countries belong, a national security threat. Having done so, he ordered frozen the property of “any foreign person” whom the U.S. government should designate as having taken part, even indirectly, in such ICC investigations.
My own birth in Libertyville, Illinois, may exempt me from this designation – but maybe not, for I am a citizen of Ireland as well as the United States. In any event the order clearly extends to the Gambia-born Prosecutor whom I serve and to most of the dedicated civil servants with whom I have collaborated at the ICC. And if the United States designates any of them or the ICC itself to be such a “foreign person,” Trump’s order goes on to prohibit people like me from continuing to donate their services.
The Executive Order’s scope is breathtaking. Its sanctions are harsh, civil and potentially even criminal in nature. It would touch not only designated foreign persons but also their associates, regardless of nationality. It could reach even the casual giver of advice, even the airline that transports designated persons or the hotel that provides them a place to stay.
The effect well might cripple this court. That should strike fear in other entities, such as the International Court of Justice, which at times have cause to examine the conduct of the United States.
What, readers may ask, have my colleagues and I done to warrant this extraordinary treatment? In my own case, it is to have devoted my spare time, without salary, to researching, writing, and speaking out about the harms that children endure in armed conflict.
Especially tragic in our troubled world is what war does to children. They are targeted for torture, rape, and trafficking. Even children under fifteen may end up in armed groups, learning to kill rather than going to school. Children suffer the loss of their homes and their loved ones – indeed, as the news from Afghanistan of yet another attack on a maternity ward shows, their own lives may end without any real chance to begin.
I am most proud of having helped to draft the 2016 Policy on Children of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. Benefiting from meetings with humanitarian groups and with youths who grew up in conflict zones, the Policy pledges that every ICC investigation will consider evidence of child soldiering, forcible transfer, sexual violence, and other crimes against and affecting children. The Policy stresses the needs of girls and of other children disadvantaged because of gender, sex, or sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, ability or disability. It has been cited by human rights groups and U.N. agencies and, as I previously wrote, it thus complements others’ efforts on behalf of children.
At the ICC, this prosecutorial focus already has resulted in convictions for the recruitment, use, and sexual abuse of children in armed groups. One pending ICC matter, relating to Rohingya Muslims forced out of Myanmar, includes allegations that children were thrown to their deaths in water or fires. A matter relating to Afghanistan, meanwhile, includes charges of gendered violence against girls, attacks on schools and hospitals, recruitment of children under fifteen, and crimes against child detainees.
The United States condemns abuses against the Rohingyas of Myanmar, yet is silent on ICC efforts there. On Afghanistan it demands an end to the ICC’s investigation, for the admitted reason that the inquiry encompasses the behavior of all forces, including the United States.
Should the United States proceed with this Executive Order, our troubled world will have suffered yet another tragedy, one that will harm children and other victims of armed conflict the most.
Diane Marie Amann, who has served since December 2012 as the Special Adviser to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict, is the Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law. She is a Counsellor and former Vice President of the American Society of International Law, a former Chair of the Section of International Law of the Association of American Law Schools, and a recipient of the American Bar Association’s Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law. In service to the government of the United States, she has been an Assistant Federal Public Defender and a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Amann writes this op-ed solely in her personal capacity.
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