The United States imposed sanctions on senior officials of the International Criminal Court, including Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the court of “unlawful attempts to subject the Americans to its jurisdiction.”
The Hague-based International Criminal Court is currently investigating whether US forces have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
The court has been criticized by the United States since its inception, and it is one of twelve countries not yet registered.
Established by a United Nations treaty in 2002, the court investigates and brings to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and intervenes when national authorities cannot or do not want 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 nations accused the body of focusing unfairly on Africans.
What are the penalties?
President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order in June, allowing the United States to block the assets of ICC personnel and bar them from entering the country.
Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday that Ms. Bensouda and Vaciso Mushushoku, head of the Division of Specialization, Integration and Cooperation, will be punished under the order.
He dismissed the ICC as a “totally broken and corrupt institution,” and said that those who continue “material support to these individuals risk being punished as well.”
The US State Department also imposed restrictions on issuing visas to ICC employees participating in “efforts to investigate US personnel.”
When President Trump issued his executive order in June, the International Criminal Court condemned what it described as “more threats and coercive measures” against it.
“The attack on the International Criminal Court also constitutes an assault on the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the court represents the last hope for justice,” the statement said.
Who is Fatou Bensouda?
As a former Minister of Justice of the Gambia, her homeland, Mrs. Bensouda was in an ideal position to succeed Luis Moreno-Ocampo as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, where she was his deputy throughout his tenure.
She was previously a senior legal advisor at the UN-backed court that tried alleged gang leaders for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
While the ICC investigations have expanded to look into disputes elsewhere, which have now earned them the ire of the United States, Africa remains its main focus. All ICC trials so far have focused only on Africans – and the militia leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Thomas Lubanga, became the first person to be convicted by the ICC for war crimes in 2012.
But Ms Bensouda has also faced a series of defeats, including the acquittal of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo of war crimes charges in 2019 and the dropping of charges of crimes against humanity against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2014.
What is the International Criminal Court investigating?
The International Criminal Court began investigating alleged war crimes committed by the United States and others in the Afghan conflict earlier this year.
According to the legal procedures of the International Criminal Court, the court can issue arrest warrants or a subpoena once the plaintiffs have gathered sufficient evidence and identified the suspects. From there, they will decide if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
At the time, Pompeo pledged to protect Americans from the investigation, calling it “a truly amazing work by an unaccountable political establishment masquerading as a statutory body.”
A 2016 report by the International Criminal Court said there was reasonable basis to believe that the US military tortured secret detention sites run by the CIA.
- Afghanistan: the long road to peace
- The Afghan War: The Short and Long Story
The court is expected to look into the behavior of the Taliban, the Afghan government and the US forces since May 2003.
Afghanistan is a member of the court, but officials there have voiced their opposition to the investigation.