The United States has imposed sanctions on senior officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC), including Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the court of “illegitimate attempts to bring Americans to its jurisdiction.”
The Hague-based ICC is currently investigating whether US forces have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
The United States has criticized the court since its founding and is among a dozen states that have not signed up.
Created by a UN treaty in 2002, the Court investigates and brings to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, intervening when national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute.
- What is the International Criminal Court?
The treaty has been ratified by 123 countries, including the United Kingdom. But the United States – along with China, India and Russia – refused to join, while some African countries accused the body of being unfairly focused on Africans.
What are the sanctions?
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in June that allows the United States to freeze the assets of ICC employees and prevent them from entering the country.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Pompeo said Ms Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the Competence, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, were to be punished under the order.
Rejecting the ICC as a “completely broken and corrupt institution”, he said those who continued to “materially support these people also risked exposure to sanctions”.
The US State Department has also restricted the issuance of visas for ICC personnel involved in “efforts to investigate US personnel.”
When President Trump issued his executive order in June, the ICC denounced what it called “new threats and coercive action” against it.
“An attack on the ICC is also an attack on the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of them the court represents the last hope for justice,” the statement read.
Who is Fatou Bensouda?
As a former Minister of Justice in The Gambia, her home country, Ms. Bensouda was ideally placed to succeed Luis Moreno-Ocampo as the ICC Attorney General, as she had been his deputy throughout her tenure. mandate.
She had also previously served as a senior legal advisor in a UN-backed tribunal that prosecuted alleged leaders of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
While it has broadened the ICC’s investigations to examine conflicts elsewhere, which has now earned it the wrath of the United States, Africa has remained its primary focus. So far, all ICC trials have focused solely on Africans – and a DR Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga has become the first person to be convicted of war crimes by the ICC in 2012.
But Ms. Bensouda has also faced a string of defeats, including the acquittal of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo for war crimes in 2019 and the dropping of charges of crimes against humanity against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. in 2014.
What is the ICC investigating?
The ICC began investigating alleged war crimes committed by the United States and others in the Afghan conflict earlier this year.
Under the ICC legal process, the court can issue arrest warrants or a subpoena after prosecutors have gathered sufficient evidence and identified suspects. From there, they will decide if there is enough evidence for a case to go to trial.
At the time, Mr. Pompeo promised to protect Americans from the investigation, calling it “a truly breathtaking gesture by an irresponsible political institution posing as a legal body.”
A 2016 ICC report said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the US military had committed acts of torture in secret CIA-run places of detention.
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The actions of the Taliban, the Afghan government and US troops since May 2003 should be reviewed by the tribunal.
Afghanistan is a member of the court, but officials there have also expressed opposition to the investigation.