With Trump’s ban, is the International Criminal Court only for Africans? Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 28, 2021


From the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Burundi, and Ivory Coast among others, the impact of the International Criminal Court, ICC, sledgehammer is visible throughout Africa.

The Hague is said to have publicly indicted over 44 people with some 36 arrest warrants issued. Many more are set to follow as African leaders continue to be tried for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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But the question as to if the court only tries Africans have once again featured on news platforms as the US moves to prevent its forces from been investigated by the ICC, which is said to be an “intergovernmental organization and international tribunal with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

Speaking last Friday, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said the United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court personnel seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and may do the same with those who seek action against Israel.

Pompeo, AP reported, was acting on a threat delivered in September by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, framed the action as necessary to prevent the international body from infringing on U.S. sovereignty by prosecuting American forces or allies for torture or other war crimes.

“We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said arguing that American courts are capable of handling any allegations against U.S. forces and questioning the motives of an international court.

Pompeo said the restrictions “may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without the allies’ consent”.

His statement has drawn outright condemnation with many seeing it as an infringement on the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Rights groups have since lashed out on the US with Human Rights Watch says it is “a thuggish attempt to penalize investigators” at the ICC. “Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked.”

Amnesty International described the move as “the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections.”

The Netherland-based court, the first global tribunal for war crimes, said it would continue to operate “undeterred” by the U.S. action.

The ICC prosecutor, reports hold, has a pending request to look into possible war crimes in Afghanistan that may involve Americans.

The prosecution’s request says there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”

The ICC said in a statement it was established by a treaty supported by 123 countries and that it prosecutes cases only when those countries failed to do so or did not do so “genuinely.”

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AMOS FOFUNG Nkunchoh is a multi-talented journalist with an intrinsic passion for investigative, politics and conflict reporting. He's based in the U. S.A.

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