Trump’s Abuses of Power Expose the Hollow Claims of American Exceptionalism

Trump’s Abuses of Power Expose the Hollow Claims of American Exceptionalism
President Donald Trump at a luncheon with members of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room at the White House, Washington, Dec. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

While all eyes seemed to be on the impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee in Washington this week, another judicial drama was unfolding at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. On Thursday, Helen Brady, a lawyer for the ICC’s chief prosecutor, argued that the court overstepped its mandate in April when it rejected the prosecutor’s request to open a formal investigation into alleged atrocities and abuses committed by U.S., Afghan and Taliban forces in the war in Afghanistan.

It is a case that could have profound implications not only for President Donald Trump’s promise to negotiate an end to the war with the Taliban, but for international justice writ large. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, was even at the ICC this week to argue that the court has no jurisdiction over alleged abuses committed by U.S. troops and members of the CIA. Closing arguments from a number of other parties, including lawyers for the Afghan government and Afghan victims, are set to end this week. But it may be a while before the ICC decides whether its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, can move forward with an investigation.

A full two years have passed since Bensouda first applied for permission from a panel of pretrial judges to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan. Since then, Bensouda’s push for an inquiry has hit a number of road blocks, including the ICC’s surprising decision in April to reject her request on the grounds that an investigation wouldn’t be successful without cooperation from the U.S. and the other implicated parties.

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