UN Judge Abruptly Resigns Over Political Threats From Trump Administration


It could be easy to miss the wide ranging ramifications of the Trump administration’s foreign policy thanks to President Donald Trump’s incessantly belligerent domestic behavior. However, this week, a United Nations judge working in The Hague abruptly resigned over issues currently facing the judiciary he’d been working in, including threats from the Trump team against the International Criminal Court.

German Judge Christoph Flügge also cited unchecked judicial interference from the Turkish government in explaining his decision to resign from his career in The Hague, which included work on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and its successor, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. As he explained, the Turkish government made baseless allegations against a Turkish member judge of that body, proving so passionately committed to the claim he was associated with controversial cleric Fethullah Gülen that they arrested him, although the judge — Aydın Sefa Akay — was eventually released.

Still, the Turkish government used a veto power to get him off the court anyway, and Flügge says he and other judges “immediately protested,” but to no avail.

He faulted United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres for apparently doing nothing to counter Turkey, asserting:

‘Every incident in which judicial independence is breached is one too many. Now there is this case, and everyone can invoke it in the future. Everyone can say: ‘But you let Turkey get its way.’ This is an original sin. It can’t be fixed.’

Meanwhile, the United States under the leadership of President Trump has continued to demonstrate its belligerence. Late last year, in on-camera remarks, Trump’s still-serving national security adviser John Bolton threatened the judges on the International Criminal Court with punitive action that maybe even included criminal investigation if they pursued a case against American soldiers suspecting of torturing people in Afghanistan or any other case involving American citizens.

Flügge exclaimed:

‘The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat… It is consistent with the new American line: “We are No 1 and we stand above the law.”‘

Considering these issues, he concluded that the “diplomatic world” does not value an “independent judiciary” nearly as highly as they claim.

This tension could have real effects, as the judiciary in The Hague — and elsewhere — proves too politically constrained to do their job correctly, which is precisely the opposite of what’s supposed to happen.

On the home front, the Trump administration has certainly established antagonism against the judiciary through numerous means, even incessantly dismissing the legitimacy of an entire court (the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) despite little to no evidence they’re actually as biased as the Trump team claims. They’ve also famously dismissed the federal government’s Justice Department’s legitimacy over the continuation of the Russia investigation.

Similarly, there are plenty of examples of their antagonism against establishments of international relations including organizations like NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and allies through means like tariffs.

These effects of the Trump administration are potentially more toxic and wide ranging than the salacious headlines it generates thanks to their incompetence.

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