International Criminal Court condemns US sanctions order

THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administrations decision to authorise sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the courts judicial proceedings.

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An executive order by US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday authorises sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trumps order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.

The court, which has 123 member states, said in a statement released early on Friday that it stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate laid down in its founding treaty, the Rome Statute.

It said an attack on the Hague-based court also constitutes an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the court represents the last hope for justice.

O-Gon Kwon, president of the courts management and oversight mechanism, the Assembly of States Parties, also criticised the US measures. They undermine our common endeavor to fight impunity and to ensure accountability for mass atrocities, he said in a statement. I deeply regret measures targeting court officials, staff and their families.

The Hague-based court was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes of humanity and genocide in places where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. The US has never been an ICC member.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday denounced the tribunal as a kangaroo court that has been unsuccessful and inefficient in prosecuting war crimes. He said that the US would punish the ICC employees for any investigation or prosecution of Americans in Afghanistan and added that they could also be banned for prosecuting Israelis for alleged abuses against Palestinians.

It gives us no joy to punish them, Pompeo said. But we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms.

Last year, Pompeo revoked the visa of the courts chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, after she asked ICC judges to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. The judges initially rejected the request, she appealed and the the court authorised the investigation in March. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a tweet on Friday he was very disturbed by the United States measures and called on Washington not to sanction ICC staff.

The ICC is crucial in the fight against impunity and in upholding international rule of law, Blok tweeted. Senior UN and EU officials also spoke out against the decision.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Trumps order is a matter of serious concern and he described EU members as steadfast supporters of the tribunal. Borrell said it is a key factor in bringing justice and peace, and that it must be respected and supported by all nations.

The United Nations has taken note with concern about reports of Trumps order, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

AP.

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