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US war with the International Criminal Court

International investigators looking into charges of war crimes by Americans in Afghanistan will face economic penalties and travel restrictions, Washington has warned, accusing the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) of corruption.

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

The Donald Trump administration maintains that the United States can prosecute its own military and intelligence personnel.

ICC was one of the main international institutions that was used by the Americans themselves to punish leaders of regimes disliked by Washington.

“We hold our own accountable better than the ICC has done for the worst perpetrators of mass criminal atrocities,” secretary of state Mike Pompeo said.

“When our own people do wrong, we lawfully punish those individuals, as rare as they are, who tarnish the reputation of our great US military and our intelligence services,.”

The sanctions come more than two years after the ICC announced an inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity — including torture and rape — by US forces in Afghanistan and at Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogation facilities abroad.

The court called the new restrictions “an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the court’s judicial proceedings.”

Here is the text of the ICC statement :

“The International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”) expresses profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions, including financial measures, against the Court and its officials, made earlier today by the government of the United States.

The ICC stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate bestowed upon it by the Rome Statute and the states that are party to it.

These are the latest in a series of unprecedented attacks on the ICC, an independent international judicial institution, as well as on the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, which reflects the commitment and cooperation of the ICC’s 123 States Parties, representing all regions of the world.

“These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.

“They are announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials in the context of the Court’s independent and objective investigations and impartial judicial proceedings.

“An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.

“As it continues to meet its mandated responsibilities, the Court relies on the staunch support and cooperation of its states parties.

“The Court wishes to recall, in this context, yesterday’s joint statement from the ten ICC states parties members of the UN Security Council, reconfirming their “unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution,” as well as the press statement issued earlier today by the president of the Assembly of states parties.»

Leaders of the American military and the intelligence community have struggled with accusations of battlefield and detainee abuse in the two decades since the September 11 attacks, after US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

Both wars strained American credibility around the world, stretching the ability of US troops to deploy to combat year after year.

In 2017, the Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, concluded that there was enough information to prove that US forces had “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence” in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and later at clandestine CIA facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

In between, the United Nations concluded that American and Afghan security forces were killing more civilians in Afghanistan than were the Taliban and other insurgents.

And several high-profile prosecutions of American troops accused of atrocities during conflict were dismissed — including one by Trump, who in November pardoned a Green Beret charged with the murder of an Afghan man in 2010.

Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the Trump administration was “putting the U.S. on the side of those who commit and cover up human rights abuses, not those who prosecute them.”

The White House was opposed even by its main allies.

In particular, Britain said the ICC should be able to work independently, without fear of sanction, two days after Trump approved economic and travel sanctions against some of its employees.

“The UK strongly supports the International Criminal Court in tackling impunity for the worst international crimes,” Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said.

“We will continue to support positive reform of the court, so that it operates as effectively as possibly.

“The ICC officials should be able to carry out their work independently and impartially, and without fear of sanction.”

The European Union also voiced grave concern about Trump’s June 11 decision to authorise sanctions against the International Criminal Court, saying any punitive measures were “unacceptable and unprecedented”.

“The European Union expresses grave concern about the announced measures and reconfirms its unwavering support for the International Criminal Court,” the 27-state bloc said in a statement, urging the United States to reverse its position.

“Sanctions against those involved in the work of the ICC staff and their families as well as persons associated with the ICC are unacceptable and unprecedented in scope and content.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Trump’s 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.”

Germany’s Foreign ministry said that Berlin had taken note of the announcement “with great concern.”

“We have full confidence in (the Court’s) work,” the ministry said.

“It is an indispensable institution in the fight against impunity of international crimes and needed more than ever these days.

We reject any pressure on the independent court, its staff or people who work with it.”

Switzerland said it “regrets” the US sanctions and affirmed its support for the court “as an independent institution that prosecutes the most serious crimes and thereby contributes to lasting peace and international stability.”

“Switzerland calls on the USA to revoke these comprehensive measures,” the Foreign ministry in Bern said in a statement.

It also called on the United States to “conduct a full investigation and prosecution of US personnel” implicated in serious crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

Dutch Foreign minister Stef Blok said in a tweet he was “very disturbed by the United States’ measures” and called on Washington not to sanction the ICC’s staff.

“The ICC is crucial in the fight against impunity and in upholding international rule of law,” Blok tweeted.

The United Nations has “taken note with concern” about reports of Trump’s order, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

Having opposed the ICC, the United States has virtually declared war on international law and on the entire decades-long system of international relations.

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