In the post 9-11 world, it seems that the principles of international law that we hold so sacred are applied only towards developing countries that are easy to pressure or sanction into observance. For the large world powers, like the United States of America, international law appears to be a discardable item, to be used only when it suits your interests.

The recent announcement by the United States regarding the International Criminal Court (ICC) has taken the US’s flippant attitude toward international law to a more aggressive level. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated on Friday that the US would deny visas to members of the ICC involved in investigating the actions of US troops in Afghanistan or other countries. He doubled down against the ICC by saying Washington was prepared to take further steps, including economic sanctions, if the war crimes court goes ahead with any probes of the US or allied personnel.

The US had originally signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2000 but in the wake of invading Afghanistan, failed to ratify the treaty, making the US officially not a State Party to the ICC. This in itself provoked criticism of the US- 123 states are parties to the Rome Statute, with the European Union being one of the strongest supporters of the ICC. The US, being the world’s superpower and champion of democracy and human rights, opting itself out from being accountable from the world court, was anti-thesis to the values of peace that the US claimed to hold dear.

Refusing to ratify a treaty is US’s right- this action, of denying visas to ICC officials independently investigating US action in Afghanistan, is a directly hostile move; a world power such as the US threatening action against the international court can have terrifying consequences for global institutions and on the established customary laws which govern conduct between states.

Any act of the US has great impact across the world. If the US refuses to adhere to international law, other countries, including those with dictatorial and bigoted tendencies, can use this justification to reject international deterrents against genocide and war-crimes. This new move indicates US’s swing from allying with Western rule of law towards a more realist confrontational approach- a frightening shift when one considers the history of such ideologies.