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Trump sanctions ICC over investigations into US and Israeli war crimes

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On June 11, President Donald Trump authorized sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC), if the intergovernmental organization continues to investigate alleged war crimes of U.S. forces. In the White House’s official statement, it accuses the ICC of unfairly targeting the United States and Israel.

In March, the ICC Appeals Chamber authorized an investigation, launched by Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, into potential war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Afghan National Security Forces, the United States military, and the CIA. Bensouda’s office is also investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly carried out by the Taliban.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attacked the move right away. “This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body,” he said at the time. Later that month, international officials attacked Pompeo for initiating a political campaign against the ICC and threatening members by name. “This is an international court, and here you have the secretary of state literally singling out staff members of that court publicly and threatening them,” said former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes David Scheffer, “It is just beyond the pale.”

Trump’s official statement on the sanctions accuses the ICC of pursuing, “politically-motivated investigations against us and our allies, including Israel.” The ICC has also launched an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank. Axios has revealed that the Trump administration coordinated the new sanctions with Israel’s government. “Israeli officials tell me the plan to sanction the ICC was one of the main reasons for Pompeo’s trip to Israel. The discussion was kept to low profile by both sides and wasn’t mentioned during the many briefings before and after the visit,” wrote Barak Ravid.

Jonathan Cook explained the growing anxiety from the U.S. and Israel at Mondoweiss yesterday:

Bensouda’s term as prosecutor finishes next year. Israel may hope to continue stonewalling until she is gone. Elyakim Rubinstein, a former Israeli Supreme Court judge, called last month for a campaign to ensure that her successor is more sympathetic to Israel.

But if Bensouda does get the go-ahead, Netanyahu and an array of former generals, including his Defence Minister Benny Gantz, would likely be summoned for questioning. If they refuse, an international arrest warrant could be issued, theoretically enforceable in the 123 countries that ratified the court. Neither Israel nor the US is willing to let things reach that point.

The ICC has condemned the sanctions. “An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice,” it said in a statement.

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