Trump Administration Attempts to Thwart International Criminal Court Investigators

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets coalition forces at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, on July 9, 2018.

"While victims' rights should be the very top priority of the United States government, throwing roadblocks in front of the ICC's investigation undermines justice not only for abuses committed in Afghanistan, but also for the millions of victims and survivors throughout the world who have experienced the most serious crimes under worldwide law".

"I'm announcing a policy of US visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of USA personnel", Pompeo said.

The United States announced its first sanctions against the International Criminal Court Friday, threatening visa restrictions for anyone involved in a potential probe of American soldiers' actions in Afghanistan.

The restrictions "may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis", Pompeo added.

The top US diplomat also said Washington is prepared to "take additional steps", including economic sanctions, if the ICC "does not change its course".

"These visa restrictions will not be the end of our efforts", Pompeo said.

This appears to come amid a request from an ICC prosecutor to look into potential war crimes committed by Americans in Afghanistan.

"Further measures, including economic sanctions, could follow, " Pompeo warned.

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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".

The ICC said in response it would continue its "independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law". He encouraged ICC member countries to "publicly make clear that they will remain undaunted in their support for the ICC and will not tolerate USA obstruction".

Supporters of the court slammed Pompeo's announcement.

"This is an unprecedented attempt to skirt global accountability for well-documented war crimes", ACLU Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar said in the statement.

"Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked", she said, and called on United States lawmakers to rescind the move and express support for the court.

After the court's founding in 2002, Congress passed a law prohibiting U.S. support for the ICC and also authorizing the government to use all necessary means to repatriate any American citizen detained by the court.

Last year, President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that the U.S. would never surrender its sovereignty by supporting the ICC and would always regard it as an illegitimate global institution.

It said that all states were obliged to prosecute and punish the most serious crimes.

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