US sanctions International Criminal Court over war crimes investigations in Afghanistan

US president Donald Trump has opposed investigations into war crimes committed by the US-led forces in Afghanistan since 2003. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo termed the ICC a ‘kangaroo court’

June 12, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
US sanctions ICC

The United States under president Donald Trump sanctioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) on June 10, Thursday, blocking ICC investigators from setting foot in the US. The sanctions will also freeze all assets owned by ICC employees in the US. The sanctions have been placed over the ICC’s ongoing investigation into war crimes reportedly committed by the US-led forces in Afghanistan following its invasion of the country. It is also being viewed as the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to unilaterally withdraw the US from international diplomatic forums and platforms.

The sanctions were imposed on Thursday through executive order 13926. Moments after the president signed the sanctions order, US state secretary Mike Pompeo characterized the ICC as a “kangaroo court”. A White House press statement also said that the ICC’s “actions are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty.” Allegations of the ICC being manipulated by adversaries of the US have also been made by US officials.

The US has consistently opposed any investigation by the ICC into the war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The Trump administration has argued that the US is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome and therefore is outside the jurisdiction of the ICC. It also recently cancelled the visa of ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in order to block the investigation.

The ICC responded to the US sanctions in a statement on Thursday, alleging that the move is “an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law.”

“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,” the ICC statement said.

Bensouda has been leading a pre-trial investigation into the reported war crimes, having collected testimonials and evidence since November 2017. A formal investigation by the ICC was opened on March 3, 2020, after a presiding judge found that preliminary investigation showed “reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes had been committed in Afghanistan.”