Rights group says Trump administration’s sanctions against ICC staff creates chilling effect for international justice

Amnesty International said on Wednesday the Donald Trump administration’s sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) staff has created a chilling effect for international justice.

Daniel Balson, advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, said the sanctions announced on Thursday represent “another brazen attack against international justice”.

“The Trump administration’s decision to enact sanctions against senior ICC staff is another brazen attack against international justice. The court is made up of legal professionals who have dedicated their professional lives in pursuit of justice for victims and survivors of some of the most horrific crimes, including crimes against humanity. They should be commended for their commitment, not subjected to a punitive campaign of intimidation. Grotesquely, the White House’s actions may dissuade survivors of human rights abuses from demanding justice, and create a chilling effect on those who would support their efforts,” Balson wrote in a statement.

“Today’s announcement is designed to do what this administration does best- bully and intimidate. It penalizes not only the ICC, but civil society actors working for justice alongside the court worldwide.

“Today’s reckless actions constitute a demand that the U.S. government be granted a political carve out of impunity for nationals accused of having committed crimes under international law in Afghanistan. No one responsible for the most serious crimes under international law should be able to hide from accountability, under a cloak of impunity,” he added.

Amnesty International USA has called on Congress to “stand up for international justice and object to this transparent abuse of the executive’s congressionally mandated sanctions power by speaking out forcefully against this decision and modifying the powers it grants to the executive so that they can no longer be abused in pursuit of impunity.”

In a statement on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said the sanctions were meant “to protect Americans from unjust and illegitimate investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which threatens our sovereignty and poses a danger to the United States and our allies.”.

He said: “Today, the United States is taking action to protect Americans from unjust and illegitimate investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which threatens our sovereignty and poses a danger to the United States and our allies. The United States is a strong advocate for justice around the world but is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, nor have we ever accepted its jurisdiction over our personnel. The ICC’s recklessness has forced us to this point, and the ICC cannot be allowed to follow through with its politically-driven targeting of U.S. personnel. The sanctions and visa restrictions announced today apply to individuals who have directly engaged in ICC efforts to investigate U.S. personnel without the consent of the United States or have materially supported individuals who are designated for such actions.

“To that end and pursuant to Executive Order (E.O) 13928, the United States is designating ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for having directly engaged in an effort to investigate U.S. personnel, and the ICC’s Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko for having materially assisted Prosecutor Bensouda. Both Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko have been added to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. Individuals and entities that continue to support Prosecutor Bensouda and Mr. Mochochoko materially risk exposure to sanctions. Additionally, under section 4 of E.O. 13928, individuals designated under the E.O. are subject to visa restrictions and may subsequently be found ineligible for a U.S. visa. In practical terms, for individuals subject to these authorities, their travel to the United States is restricted.

“Today’s announcement reflects the American commitment to real justice and accountability. From the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II to the more recent Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Rwanda tribunals, the United States has consistently sought to uphold good and punish evil under international law. We will continue to do so. Americans are proud to stand for truth and justice. We have no intention of letting the ICC’s illegitimate activities become a barrier to that pursuit.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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