The United States says it will sanction any International Criminal Court (ICC) official involved in investigating alleged war crimes committed by Americans.
It’s the latest escalation in the continuing saga which began in early March of this year, when The Hague-based ICC first announced it will move forward with its official probe into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan during the eighteen-year long war. The ICC had said it would look into allegations against all parties in the conflict, including the Taliban and Afghan military. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had at the time blasted the initiative as “reckless” and dismissed it as “renegade” actions on the part of the international court, vowing that repercussions would follow.
Washington has now hit back in dramatic fashion. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced President Trump “has authorized economic sanctions against International Criminal Court officials directly engaged with any effort to investigate or prosecute United States personnel without the consent of the United States.”
“The President has also authorized the expansion of visa restrictions against International Criminal Court officials and their family members,” the statement added.
The ICC investigation marks the first time the body had ever opened a formal investigation focused on American forces.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda previously described a full investigation springing from evidence allegedly showing Americans had “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence” in Afghanistan during the early years of the occupation.
And as Newsweek describes, Pompeo has again reiterated the US position of seeing the ICC as ultimately a “kangaroo court”:
The United States signed the Rome Statute in 2000 but never ratified it and still does not consider itself a party to the ICC. Senior Trump administration officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have deeply criticized the judicial body, which he referred to as a “kangaroo court” during a press conference Thursday.
“We cannot allow ICC officials and their families to shop, travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms while these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms,” Pompeo said. “Never forget the American commitment to real justice and accountability.”
Trump’s newly released executive order reads as follows:
These actions on the part of the ICC, in turn, threaten to infringe upon the sovereignty of the United States and impede the critical national security and foreign policy work of United States Government and allied officials, and thereby threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States.
The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, has never accepted ICC jurisdiction over its personnel, and has consistently rejected ICC assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel.
Of course, the US has backed ICC convictions when it comes to trying and convicting tin-pot banana republic dictators and warlords, or Serbian war criminals. The Hague has recently come under scrutiny for seeming to only bringing war criminals in the third world, such as in Africa, to justice.
However, it just so happens that Western leaders, troops, and officials always seem to conveniently “evade” justice – even for things like the Iraq War, where torture by allied forces of local Iraqis was later shown to be rampant.