Trump Admin Restricts Visas Of International Court Officials Conducting Afghanistan Probe
The ICC has been investigating the US for committing war crimes since March.
September 03, 2020 at 1:35 pm
The United States government has revoked the visa of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Her office says the restriction was made in response to an ICC investigation into alleged war crimes by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
According to the BBC, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against Fatou Bensouda and fellow ICC official Phakiso Mochochoko Wednesday. Pompeo's office has also restricted the allowance of visas for ICC staff involved in "efforts to investigate US personnel.”
Bensouda, a former justice minister from Gambia, was also a senior legal adviser at a United Nations court that prosecuted the alleged head collaborators in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, BBC reports. She has focused mostly on crimes committed in Africa in her work with the ICC, but recently has broadened the Court's investigations regarding global incidents, drawing the ire of U.S. politicians.
The Secretary of State called the Court a “thoroughly broken and corrupted institution,” and warned anyone who "materially support those individuals risk exposure to sanctions as well.”
ICC has been investigating the US for war crimes committed in Afghanistan since March. According to a 2016 ICC report, there is a “reasonable basis” for the U.S. military forces committing torture at clandestine CIA sites.
Pompeo said last month that the country would withdraw or restrict visas to ICC staff investigating allegations against American forces or its allies. He said the Court tried "illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction," according to Reuters.
In June, President Donald Trump announced an executive order that allows the U.S. to restrict travel assets of ICC employees trying to enter the country.
The Court released a statement condemning U.S. leadership for impeding its investigations with “attacks” against its independent process.
“These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court's judicial proceedings. They are announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials in the context of the Court's independent and objective investigations and impartial judicial proceedings,” the statement read.
On Wednesday, Balkees Jarrah, senior counsel at the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, blasted the sanctions as a "shameful new low" for the Trump administration.
BREAKING: United States sanctions ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and another court official giving effect to a sweeping executive order issued in June by Trump. Marks a shameful new low for US commitments to justice for victims of the worst crimes. https://t.co/FLQkTzOC1y
— Balkees Jarrah (@balkeesjarrah) September 2, 2020
She wrote the attack against the ICC is an effort to hide “the failure of U.S. authorities to meaningfully address past torture and other abuses. This is precisely the court's role, to deliver justice for victims when all other doors are closed.”
In an email to Reuters, Bensouda’s office said the sanction should not affect Bensouda’s travel to the U.S. to meet her United Nations duties. She travels regularly to brief the U.N. Security Council on cases referred to the Court by U.N. powers.
ICC judges are still investigating its case involving the U.S. and have not issued a decision on launching a formal investigation in Afghanistan, Reuters reports.
According to the BBC, the Court started operating in 2002 to act as a court of last resort with global jurisdiction. Its mission is to prosecute and bring to justice major, large-scale crimes. The U.S. has opposed aligning with the organization, despite the Rome Statue being ratified by 123 other countries.