Published: Sat, March 16, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Secretary of State Pompeo announces sanctions on anyone requesting ICC probes

Secretary of State Pompeo announces sanctions on anyone requesting ICC probes

The United States said it will deny visas to any individual involved in initiating investigations or prosecutions against USA personnel at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announced on Friday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently announced new restrictions regarding probes from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Pompeo, speaking from the State Department Friday, said the restrictions include "persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation".

The prosecution's request said there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies "committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period".

"These visa restrictions will not be the end of our efforts", Pompeo said.

"The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law", the ICC said.

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said ICC investigators were also seeking to probe the United States military's conduct "not just in Afghanistan, but also in black sites that we now know was spread across the globe, where they were held in secret detention for months, and where some say detainees were tortured". The Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel for alleged human rights abuses.

Richard Dicker, worldwide justice director at Human Rights Watch, called it "an outrageous effort to bully the court and deter scrutiny of us conduct".

But rather than targeting global criminals, the Trump administration has set its sights on the ICC-an impartial judicial body that aims to promote accountability under worldwide law by probing and prosecuting crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

James Goldston, the executive director of Open Society Justice Initiative, said the new sanctions would undermine efforts to hold to account those responsible for the worst war crimes. "After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us".

In a statement he said that the court is "non-political and "an independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under worldwide law".

Echoing Bolton's broader denunciations of the ICC past year, Pompeo on Friday highlighted that the United States-under both Democratic and Republican presidents-has refused to join the court for more than two decades "because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers and the threat it poses to American national sovereignty". While she didn't target the US military, Bensouda said the inquiry sought "support and cooperation" from the Afghan government, other state parties and the global community as a whole "to accomplish our objectives of ensuring accountability for the crimes committed and that the long-suffering victims of those crimes receive justice".

The ICC said in a statement it was established by a treaty supported by 123 countries and that it prosecutes cases only when those countries failed to do so or did not do so "genuinely".

US National Security Advisor John Bolton unveils the Trump Administration's Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, December 13, 2018. The Clinton administration in 2000 signed the Rome Statute that created the ICC but had reservations about the scope of the court's jurisdiction and never submitted it for ratification to the Senate, where there was broad bipartisan opposition to what lawmakers saw as a threat to USA sovereignty. We will not join the ICC. Impeding the work of ICC investigators disrupts its vital function and demands impunity for the White House's own policies.

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