WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, investigating US soldiers for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
Phakiso Mochochoko, director of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementary and Cooperation Division, was also added to the US sanctions blacklist for assisting Bensouda.
Pompeo said other ICC officials have already faced denial of visas to the United States over the investigations of US military personnel. “Today we take the next step, because the ICC continues to target Americans, sadly,” he said. He added that visa restrictions and broader sanctions could be applied to those helping them.
The move came after President Donald Trump authorised sanctions on the Hague-based tribunal on June 11 for probing and prosecuting US troops. Pompeo had referred to the ICC as a ‘kangaroo court’ and warned that if US soldiers are investigated then US allies in Afghanistan risk the same threat.
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US Attorney General Bill Barr said in June that the ICC has become “little more than a political tool employed by unaccountable international elites.”
The United States is not a member of the ICC and has a longstanding opposition with the court. In 2002, the US Congress even passed the so-called “Hague Invasion Act” allowing the US president to authorise military force to free any US personnel held by the ICC.
The investigation into alleged wartime atrocities in Afghanistan involves US military and civilian officials has turned the opposition into a concerted campaign against the institution.
The United States argues that it has its own procedures in place to investigate accusations against troops. Trump used his executive powers last year to clear three military members over war crimes including in Afghanistan.
Last year, the Trump administration revoked Bensouda’s US visa, but the court has continued with the probe, leading to the decision to impose economic sanctions against the court.