US President, Donald Trump, has issued an executive order authorising sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) employees involved in investigating whether US forces, intelligence agents, or allied countries such as Israel, committed war crimes during the conflict in Afghanistan.
This executive order, signed in on Thursday would deny visas and block funds and assets for ICC employees and their immediate family members. These sanctions follow repeated threats from the Trump administration which aim to block ICC investigations into war crimes committed in Afghanistan and Palestine committed by the US and Israel.
Human Rights Watch, notes that the US has backed paramilitary groups in Afghanistan which are responsible for serious abuses including war crimes. These paramilitaries have disproportionately killed Afghan civilians.
The United Nations and the American Civil Liberties Union has condemned this executive order, stating it was “a dangerous display of his contempt for human rights and those working to uphold them”. Similarly, EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that the President’s decision is a “matter of serious concern”.
"The ICC is a key factor in bringing justice and peace, it must be respected and supported by all nations and we’ll analyse the decision in order to assess its full implications", Borrell added.
In defending the executive order, a White House press secretary stressed that the US was not a member of the ICC and, “has repeatedly rejected the ICC’s assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel.”
US Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has denounced the tribunal as a "kangaroo court" that has been unsuccessful and inefficient in its mandate to prosecute war crimes. He added that “we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms."
Pompeo’s views were echoed by Attorney General William Barr who claimed there was corruption within the ICC hierarchy that he said raised suspicions that Russia and other adversaries could be interfering in the investigatory process. Barr warned that these sanctions were merely the beginning of a ‘sustained campaign’ by the US in holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its jurisdictional powers and violating their national sovereignty.
Read the full executive order here.