Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the U.S. government will impose sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, over her investigation into whether or not American troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Pompeo also said that Phakiso Mochochoko, who runs the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, has also been blacklisted as a result of the investigation. The United States is able to block of the ICC officials and prohibit them from entering the country. The Trump administration successfully blocked Bensouda’s entry visa last year, but she able to brief the U.N. Security Council as a result of an agreement worked out with the United Nations.
Bensouda is the former minister of justice in Gambia, and she was a part of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda after the Rwandan genocide. She has been the ICC’s chief prosecutor since 2012. In March, she began investigating war crimes that were allegedly committed by the U.S. military, the Taliban, and the Afghan military.
The Trump administration’s move has been condemned by human rights organizations, and attorneys throughout the world. “Secretary of State Pompeo’s announcement today marks a stunning perversion of US sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to persecute those tasked with prosecuting international crimes,” said Human Rights Watch International Justice Director Richard Dicker in a statement. “The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the International Criminal Court for justice.”
“This attempt to use executive power to infringe upon the independence of a judicial institution contravenes established principles of judicial independence both in the U.S. and around the world,” reads a statement from the New York City Bar. “The broad language of the Executive Order is also likely to have a chilling effect on those who would otherwise have a legitimate interest in ensuring that genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are properly investigated and prosecuted.”
In May, members of the House and Senate sent Pompeo letters urging him to protect Israel from any potential probes from the ICC. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the international court is “politicized and obsessed with carrying out a headhunt against Israel and the United States.”