US imposes sanctionss on officials at International Criminal Court, claiming it 'continues to target Americans'

Prosecutors are subjected to classification often used to identify narcotics dealers and terrorists

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 03 September 2020 08:46 BST
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The US has imposed sanctions on the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, claiming the organisation "continues to target Americans".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions and claimed that Ms Bensouda was "materially assisting" in the effort to target Americans. He also said the US is sanctioning the ICC's director of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.

According to a statement released by the US Treasury, both Ms Bensouda and Mr Mochochoko have been classified as "specially designated nationals", which blocks their assets and stops US citizens from making deals with them. The "specially designated nationals" classification is often used to identify narcotics dealers and terrorists.

The move is the latest of the Trump administration's responses to the ICC after the organisation announced its authorisation of an investigation into war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

The investigation will examine all participants in the conflict, including the US.

These are not the first round of sanctions aimed at the ICC.

In June, Donald Trump issued an executive order imposing sanctions on ICC officials involved in the Afghanistan investigation.

In addition to the sanctions, the Trump administration has previously shown hostilities towards the organisation.

The US has opposed the ICC's decision to investigate alleged Israeli crimes against Palestinians during an investigation into abuses carried out by Palestinian security forces.

No other western democracy – save Israel – has supported the US in its campaign against the ICC.

The Trump administration's obstinate attitude on the world's stage has alienated the country from its diplomatic allies.

On Monday, the US voted against a counter terrorism resolution because it did not include the repatriation of Isis fighters who were not born in Syria or Afghanistan. US officials said leaving them there would foment "Isis 2.0," but western democracies – like the UK – have said they do not want the fighters returned and would rather they face justice overseas.

The US also is refusing to take part in an international effort to find a Covid-19 vaccine because of the World Health Organisation's involvement.

Mark Leon Goldberg, the editor of the UN Dispatch newsletter, said the Trump administration's recent actions should be a "five alarm fire for the UN".

"It's one small step from imposing sanctions against top WHO officials as part of Trump's campaign to shift blame for his handling of Covid-19," he said.

The ICC released a statement on Wednesday responding to the Trump administration's actions.

"These coercive acts, directed at an international judicial institution and its civil servants, are unprecedented and constitute serious attacks against the Court ... and the rule of law more generally."

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