US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced economic and travel sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) officials directly involved in investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The US “has repeatedly rejected the International Criminal Court’s assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel”, read a statement from the White House press secretary.
The order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the tribunal as a “kangaroo court” that has been unsuccessful and inefficient in its mandate to prosecute war crimes.
He said that the US would punish the ICC employees for any investigation or prosecution of Americans in Afghanistan and added that they could also be banned from prosecuting Israelis for alleged abuses against Palestinians.
“It gives us no joy to punish them,” Pompeo said. “But we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms.”
However, ICC prosecutors have shown a willingness to press ahead with investigations into US service members and earlier this year launched one that drew swift US condemnation.
Last year, after former US national security adviser, John Bolton, threatened ICC employees with sanctions if they went forward with prosecutions of US or allied troops, including from Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revoked the visa of the court’s chief prosecutor, Gambian Fatou Bensouda.
Bensouda had asked ICC judges to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan that could have involved Americans. The judges initially rejected the request, but the denial was overturned after Bensouda appealed the decision and the investigation was authorised in March.
Bensouda said there is information that members of the US military and intelligence agencies “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period”.
Meanwhile, the World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) said the US action is “an outrageous act that targets individuals for doing nothing more than pursuing justice for victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity”.
WFM-IGP’s director of programmes, Anjali Manivannan said “if left unchallenged, this policy will destroy the ICC, and this must be stopped.”
In addition to Mrs Bensouda, several Gambians are believed to be working at the ICC prosecutor’s office in The Haque.