The United States has imposed sanctions on International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and one of her top aides.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the moves on Wednesday, saying that “the ICC continues to target Americans”.
The Hague-based court is continuing an investigation into whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the US or subject to US law and target Bensouda and the court’s head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.
Pompeo also said individuals and entities that continue to materially support Bensouda and Mochochoko would risk exposure to sanctions as well.
The State Department also restricted the issuance of visas for individuals Pompeo said were involved in the court’s efforts to investigate US personnel, though he did not name those affected.
Member countries of the International Criminal Court hit out against the “unacceptable” sanctions.
“I strongly reject such unprecedented and unacceptable measures against a treaty-based international organisation,” said O-Gon Kwon, president of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was concerned by Pompeo’s announcement, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Dujarric said that “we trust that any restriction taken against individuals will be implemented consistently” with a decades-old US deal with the United Nations to host the world body’s headquarters in New York.
Bensouda was given the go-ahead by the court in March to investigate whether war crimes were committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan military and US forces.
The US revoked Bensouda’s entry visa last year in response to the possible Afghanistan inquiry. But under an agreement between the UN and Washington, she was still able to regularly travel to New York to brief the UN Security Council on cases it had referred to the court in The Hague.
What doe these people have in common?
Myanmar generals accused of atrocities
Saudi officials linked to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
President Assad for mass abuses in Syria
ICC prosecutors investigating war crimes
The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on all of them. pic.twitter.com/Xdb0Za9U63
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) September 2, 2020
Rights groups immediately condemned the US designations.
Richard Dicker, Human Rights Watch international justice director, said it was a “stunning perversion of US sanctions.”
“The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the International Criminal Court for justice,” he said.
Al Jazeera and news agencies