News September 03, 2020 at 07:30 am

US sanctions ICC chief prosecutor for looking into possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan

Nii Ntreh September 03, 2020 at 07:30 am

September 03, 2020 at 07:30 am | News

Fatou Bensouda is the highly-respected Gambian lawyer who serves as the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor. Photo Credit: Bas Czerwinski

The United States has announced sanctions against Fatou Bom Bensouda, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the body “continues to target Americans”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called the sanctions the “next step” in fighting off the ICC’s interest in investigating what American soldiers did in Afghanistan following the US invasion of that country in 2001.

Phakiso Mochochoko, the ICC’s head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, is also included in the sanctions that block US-based assets belonging to ICC employees. Those employees involved in “efforts to investigate US personnel” are also restricted from traveling to the US.

Other parties who may offer help or cooperate with the top brass of the ICC have also been told they “risk exposure to sanctions as well”.

Bensouda, a Gambian and Mochochoko from Lesotho, are two of the highest-placed African officials in the global justice system along with Chile Eboe-Osuji, the Nigerian president of the ICC.

The sanctions were first contained in an executive order by President Donald Trump in mid-June. The president has repeatedly described the ICC as a partial arbiter set against the United States.

Last year, Bensouda was barred by Secretary Pompeo from entering the US after she was given the green light to look into possible war crimes that may have been committed by US forces in Afghanistan. But Bensouda was allowed to travel to the UN in New York under an understanding with the US government so that Bensouda could brief the Security Council on matters before the court.

Responding to the sanctions, the ICC called the Trump administration’s decision an “unprecedented” attack on the court in The Hague.

“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,” the court said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ICC was established in 2002 by the signatories to the Rome Statute of 1998, of which the US is not one. The court is the only permanent global institution that is vested with the power to bring cases of genocide, crimes against humanity among others, against individuals.

Although the US has not ratified the Rome Statute, its posture towards the court during the term of President Barack Obama was not hostile. However, the US maintained its citizens could not be dragged before the court for crimes investigated by the ICC.

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