US sanctions ICC officials

WASHINGTON – The US will sanction two International Criminal Court (ICC) officials for efforts to prosecute American nationals, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday, Anadolu Agency reported.

Addressing reporters at the State Department, Pompeo described the Court as being “a thoroughly corrupted and broken institution” and said the US “will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”

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He said the two officials are ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer, and Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of the Court’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division.

Pompeo warned that individuals and entities “that continue to support those individuals risk exposure to sanctions as well,” potentially leaving the door open to far-reaching follow-on sanctions within the Hague-based top international court.

The ICC condemned the “unprecedented” sanctions imposed by the US on Bensouda and Mochochoko in retaliation for a probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

“The International Criminal Court condemns the economic sanctions imposed by the US earlier today on the court’s prosecutor and a member of her office,” the ICC said in a statement.

“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,” it stressed.

It added that it “continues to stand firmly by its personnel and its mission of fighting impunity for the world’s most serious crimes.”

“As President of the Assembly, I call upon the States Parties and all the stakeholders in the Rome Statute system to reiterate our unwavering commitment to uphold the principles enshrined in the Statute and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any measures and threats,” O-Gon Kwon, president of the Assembly of State Parties at the ICC, said on Twitter.

The decision to sanction Bensouda and Mochochoko come after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June authorising sanctions against ICC personnel, including blocking their property that is subject to US jurisdiction.

In March, the Court unanimously authorised a probe into war crimes in Afghanistan allegedly committed by the US, Afghan and Taliban forces. The inclusion of US troops in the investigation has drawn the ire of Trump and his top officials.

— BERNAMA