Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the United States will revoke or deny visas issued to International Criminal Court members who’ve been investigating possible war crimes committed by the U.S. military, The Associated Press reports.
Pompeo also threatened investigators with sanctions, and noted that the rules would also apply to members who investigated American allies without the U.S.’s consent.
The U.S. has already taken action against an unspecified number of members, he said. “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.
” The blockbuster announcement comes after years of tension between Trump and the ICC: last September, National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened sanctions against ICC judges if they continued probing alleged American war crimes in Afghanistan; Pompeo’s announcement appears to finally make good on that promise.
The ICC has spent a decade investigating the Taliban’s alleged war crimes in the Middle East—but in 2017, a prosecutor requested authorization to investigate the alleged by U.S. intelligence and service members during the war, too. Palestine has also asked the court to probe alleged human rights violations committed by Israel, a close U.S. ally.
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The Washington war hawk said that action had to be taken because any investigation into alleged war crimes and torture committed by the United States would be a threat to US rule of law. Visas will be pulled or denied for anyone who has been involved in or even requested an ICC investigation of “any US personnel.”
The ICC is currently mulling over a request to investigate possible war crimes committed by the US in Afghanistan in the course of the nearly 20-year conflict which has left over 100,000 Afghans dead. The international court prosecutor’s office says it has “reasonable basis” to believe that “war crimes and crimes against humanity” were, and continue to be, committed by foreign government forces in Afghanistan.
Pompeo openly stated that the action was intended to get the court to drop the potential investigation, and that Washington was ready to further increase the pressure if they don’t do as he says.
“We are prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change course,” he said.
The court responded later in the day saying they would continue their work “undeterred” by Pompeo’s aggressive statement, and act in accordance with international law rather than Washington’s threats.
An independent and impartial judicial institution [is] crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under international law.
Following up on National Security Advisor John Bolton’s threats against the court last year, Pompeo said that action had already been taken against members of the Hague-based court for daring to look into potential crimes committed by the US abroad. He declined to name any names or reveal how many people had been targeted.
“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,” he declared.
Washington also stepped up to protect its close ally Israel from the threat of prosecution for crimes against Palestinians.
“These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allied consent,” he continued.
While the US signed the initial document which created the international court in 2000, it has since refused to actually become a member, and many American politicians see the court’s ability to hold the country accountable for its actions abroad as a threat to national sovereignty. Bolton later “unsigned” the document altogether.