US to Deny Visas to ICC Personnel Investigating War Crimes in Afghanistan
(March 15, 2019) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the US has imposed visa restrictions on a number of officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of ongoing inquiries into war crimes committed by the US in the occupation of Afghanistan.
The ICC has not formally launched an investigation, but has been soliciting information of possible crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. They have reported getting about 700 submissions from victims so far.
The US government doesn’t favor the ICC in the best of times, and Pompeo says the effort to look into US war crimes amounts to a threat to “national sovereignty.” He further threatened economic sanctions if an investigation grows.
The ICC is intended to investigate crimes against humanity when the government in question is unable or unwilling to do so. The US government would clearly be able to investigate such violations in Afghanistan, but whether or not they’ve proven willing to do so is hotly debated, based on how often such allegations are just quietly dismissed in internal investigations.
U.S. Swipes at International Criminal Court Over Afghanistan Investigations
Courtney McBride / Outline.com
(March 15, 2019) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is imposing visa restrictions against International Criminal Court officials, citing investigations by the ICC into the activities of Americans and their allies in Afghanistan.
Mr. Pompeo said the visa restrictions had begun, and he declined to provide details on the number or identities of the individuals affected. He warned that the U.S. is prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, in an effort to head off what he called improper investigations.
The announcement comes in response to moves by the ICC, kicked off in late 2017, to solicit information on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since May 2003. The ICC said it has received about 700 submissions from alleged victims, and it is working to determine whether to authorize an investigation.
The ICC, which began in The Hague in 2002, is intended as a court of last resort for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, when national justice systems can’t or won’t take action. American elected officials from both parties have long been wary of the court because of the potential to prosecute American officials for military operations.
John Bolton, national security adviser to President Trump, has long opposed the ICC, and before assuming his post urged Mr. Trump to “strangle the ICC in its cradle.”
Mr. Pompeo said the Trump administration views the potential prosecutions by the ICC as inconsistent with the body’s mandate and that the U.S. has declined to join the ICC because of its “broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers and the threat it poses to American national sovereignty.”
The U.S. government backs “hybrid legal mechanisms when they operate effectively and are consistent with our national interest,” Mr. Pompeo said Friday, citing the international criminal tribunals convened in response to atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and evidence-collection efforts in Burma and Syria. “But the ICC is attacking America’s rule of law.”
In a statement, ICC spokesman Fadi el Abdallah said the organization is aware of Mr. Pompeo’s remarks and noted that more than 120 countries have signed onto its founding treaty, the Rome Statute. The ICC provides “a legal instrument to ensure accountability for atrocity crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,” the statement said.
“The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law,” the spokesman said.
The restrictions announced Friday at the State Department apply “to persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation” into Afghanistan activities, Mr. Pompeo said. “These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent.”