US President Donald Trump has authorized sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) officials — the latest attempt by Washington dissuade the international body out of an inquiry into possible war crimes by US security agencies.
The international tribunal called the action “the latest in a series of unprecedented attacks on the ICC” that “constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.”
Under the new executive order, any person who “has directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any US personnel without the consent of the United States” or have tried the same against a US ally without that country’s consent may be subjected to sanctions.
The sanctions come after the ICC commissioned an investigation into alleged war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan by US and Afghan security forces as well as alleged war crimes committed by the Taliban.
It also follows a push by the court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to examine probable crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians to which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they were “gravely concerned.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi congratulated President Trump on the decision to impose sanctions on officials at the International Court of Justice officials. “I thank President Trump for taking steps against the politically driven tribunal which illegitimately claims jurisdiction over Israel and the United States,” Ashkenazi said on Twitter.
The US under Donald Trump has long repudiated the jurisdiction of the ICC — noting that the US is not a party to the international tribunal — and had already taken measures to hinder the probe, including cancelling Bensouda’s entry visa last year.
“The International Criminal Court’s actions are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
“As the President’s Executive Order makes clear, the United States will continue to use any means necessary to protect our citizens and our allies from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court,” she said.
Speaking at the State Department on Thursday, Mike Pompeo said, “We cannot and we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court.” Pompeo also said the economic sanctions would be determined on a case-by-case basis. He also said the visa restrictions would include family members of the targeted officials.
“It gives us no joy to punish them, but we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop, travel, and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms,” the top US diplomat said.