Donald Trump targets ICC with sanctions over Afghanistan war crimes case

Latest target: Donald Trump addressing U.S. Troops, in Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in this file photo.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an executive order authorising sanctions against individuals involved in an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into whether U.S. forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

A senior White House official, without providing details, said the ICC probe is “being pushed forward by an organisation of dubious integrity” and accused Russia of having a role.

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The order authorises Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in consultation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to block assets in the U.S. of ICC employees involved in the probe, the official said.

It also authorises Mr. Pompeo to block entry into the U.S. of these individuals.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly assailed The Hague-based ICC set-up to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It has jurisdiction only if a member state is unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities itself.

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Afghanistan is a member of the ICC, though Kabul has argued that any war crimes should be prosecuted locally. The U.S. government has never been a member of the court, established in 2002. The government imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees a year ago.

The ICC decided to investigate after prosecutors’ preliminary examination in 2017 found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the ICC has jurisdiction.

The senior administration official said the directive authorises sanctions against any individual directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate U.S. personnel without American consent.

‘Mass killings’

The official said the probe threatens to infringe on U.S. sovereignty and that while the ICC was established to provide accountability, “in practice the court is an unaccountable, ineffective and out-of-control international bureaucracy that threatens American service members and intelligence officers.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the alleged torture of prisoners by Afghan authorities and, to a lesser extent, by U.S. forces and the CIA.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 1:19:34 PM |

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