September 3, 2020

US slaps sanctions on ICC prosecutor

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The United States has slapped sanctions on International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda over her investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday revealed that the head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko had also been blacklisted under sanctions authorised by President Donald Trump.

“Today we take the next step, because the ICC continues to target Americans, sadly. We will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction,” Pompeo told reporters.

The US is not a member of the ICC which Washington’s top diplomat called “a thoroughly broken and corrupt institution.”

The ICC hit back immediately, dismissing the measures as “another attempt to interfere with the court’s judicial and prosecutorial independence”.

“These coercive acts, directed at an international judicial institution and its civil servants, are unprecedented and constitute serious attacks against the court, the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and the rule of law more generally,” said The Hague-based court.

Bensouda was given the mandate to investigate alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan military and US forces.

The United States revoked Bensouda’s entry visa last year over the possible Afghanistan inquiry.

However, under an agreement between the United Nations and Washington, she was still able to regularly travel to New York to brief the United Nations Security Council on cases it had referred to the ICC.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the organisation’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is concerned by Pompeo’s announcement.

Dujarric said: “We continue to closely follow developments on this matter. We trust that any restriction taken against individuals will be implemented consistently.”

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