On 2 September 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the imposition of sanctions on Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and prosecution jurisdiction director for authorizing such an investigation, including war crimes committed by U.S. forces, for which U.S. officials bear responsibility.
These sanctions were based on a declaration by U.S. President Trump of a national emergency on this subject in June of 2020.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) rejects as outrageous these sanctions on senior prosecution officials of the International Criminal Court. IADL will be investigating the best ways to challenge these sanctions.
The United States has for some time claimed that it is exempt from the laws which bind the rest of the world, seeking permanent international impunity for itself. The United States openly seeks to evade international accountability for its responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world, not only by refusing to join the Court but by U.S. President Trump declaring that the potential for an ICC investigation into international crimes in the war in Afghanistan is a “national emergency.”
That the International Criminal Court prosecutors are investigating the United States can be declared a “national emergency” makes a mockery of the word “emergency”.
Of course, such an investigation follows the United States’ illegal invasion and military occupation of Iraq after years of devastating sanctions, torture of prisoners, and devastation of the country that led directly and indirectly to the deaths of millions of Iraqis. The United States continues to illegally occupy Afghanistan, having killed and wounded thousands of Afghans over nearly 20 years of ongoing military attacks, while continuing drone strikes, extrajudicial killings and other war crimes and crimes against humanity around the world.
It must further be noted that this also comes in response to the Prosecutor’s approval of an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Palestine, about which the U.S. and Israel have exerted tremendous pressure on both Palestinian and international actors in an effort to uphold permanent impunity for ongoing Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. It further follows the submission of a complaint by Middlesex University law professor William Schabas against Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump adviser Jared Kushner before the ICC for their support of illegal Israeli colonial settlement activities in the West Bank of occupied Palestine.
The ICC was established in order to prevent serious crimes against civilians and put an end to impunity when domestic law does not or cannot provide a remedy. For years, the bulk of ICC actions were directed against African officials, even in relatively weak cases. The U.S. imposed sanctions are an attempt to prevent the ICC from performing a truly international or universal role, since any such court or judicial project must be able to hold the U.S. and its allies accountable for their crimes.
Sixty-seven member countries of the ICC have issued a joint statement expressing their support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution, and 10 members of the UN Security Council have done the same. It is incumbent upon all States Parties to the Rome Statute act to defend the Court and address these latest threats to the international rule of law by the United States. We further call on the UN General Assembly to condemn these U.S. actions.
It must be noted as well that these sanctions come amid the ongoing use of unilateral coercive measures, in violation of international law and the United Nations charter, by the U.S. government; for example, against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Zimbabwe. These unilateral coercive measures are a form of economic warfare and an attempt to impose regime change upon any country that rejects the dictates of the United States, and the sanctions on individual ICC prosecutors fit precisely into this framework.
The IADL rejects the U.S. attempt to suppress international justice and any form of accountability for U.S. and Israeli officials through direct economic attack and the threat of criminal prosecution against victims and their advocates simply for pursuing justice.
We affirm that this announcement will not chill our efforts to hold U.S. officials and their allies, including Israeli officials, accountable and to support our members and colleagues working to do so in a variety of forums and venues, especially the International Criminal Court.