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US sanctions against the International Criminal Court

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced against the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bom Bensouda, against the head of the International Cooperation Division of the ISTGH, Phakiso Mochochoko, as well as several unnamed employees of the Court, the imposition of entry bans, the confiscation of possible possessions in the USA and other, initially unspecified “measures”.

Pompeo justified these sanctions with the ISTGH’s investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against the humanity of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, as well as cia intelligence officials in secret U.S. prisons in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania from 2003 to 2014. The US Secretary of State insulted the Criminal Court, which has operated since 2002 and its 123 member states, as a “thoroughly broken and corrupt institution”.

“These sanctions are serious attacks on the court and the rule of law and a renewed attempt by the US to interfere with the independence of the court,” an ISTGH spokesman said late Wednesday night. The President of the Assembly of the 123 member states of the ISTGH, O-Gon Kwon, condemned the US measures as “unprecedented and unacceptable”. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “concern” about the steps of the U.S. government.

The human rights organisation Human Rights Watch criticised the sanctions as “totally misguided.” In Germany, the Greens' members of the Bundestag responsible for foreign policy, Omid Nouripour and J├╝rgen Trittin, condemned the “reckless and shocking attack by the Trump administration not only against the ISTGH but against all international law.” The two deputies called on “the Federal Government and the international community” to “strongly reject any attempt to put pressure on the Court and its staff”. A “strong and unified response” to the Trump administration’s actions must include “urgent practical measures to negate the impact of sanctions on the Staff and operations of the Court.”

In March, a preliminary examination chamber of the ISTGH gave the go-ahead for an investigation by Chief Prosecutor Bensouda into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. These are possible crimes committed by the radical Islamic Taliban and Afghan government forces, but also by foreign military personnel - especially US soldiers and members of the US CIA. The investigation also relates to the secret US prisons in Romania, Poland and Lithuania, where people suspected of terrorism by Washington have been detained, tortured and murdered. According to its statute, the Court can also investigate US citizens for alleged crimes in the territories of these member countries, even though the US has not joined the ISTGH. In June, US President Donald Trump had already threatened the sanctions now announced by Secretary of State Pompeo by decree.

Criminal offence against international administration of justice

The Trump administration’s sanctions and threats against the chief prosecutor and other members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) are a criminal offence against the international administration of justice. They are also an unprecedented event in the history of the people’s (criminal) right, the justification of which was in the form of the UN Charter and the definition of the four core international crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and war of aggression - on the occasion of the Nuremberg trials, the USA once had the leading role. But that’s long gone, not just since the Trump administration took office. Under Democratic President Bill Clinton, the US voted against the STATUTE for the ISTGH adopted by 122 states at the ISTGH Founding Conference in Rome in 1998 - together with China, Israel, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Qatar. The administration of Democrat Barack Obama, whose first six years in office (2008-2014) coincides with the period for which the ISTGH intends to conduct investigations into alleged crimes committed by US soldiers and intelligence agencies, refused to cooperate with the Court to investigate these crimes. Joe Biden is unlikely to repeat the savage insults of Trump and Pompeo against the ISTGH after a possible election victory in November, and may even lift the sanctions that have now been imposed. Unfortunately, however, washington’s active cooperation or even the accession of the United States to the ISTGH is not to be expected.

In order to ensure that the poor model of the USA among the more than 60 states, which are also still absent, does not take a break, the 123 ISTGH member states must now react clearly and decisively to the presumptuations from Washington. Not only with rhetorical criticism, but also with very concrete measures to protect the Chief Prosecutor and all other members of the Court. Switzerland, Austria and Germany, which had been particularly committed to the creation of the ISTGH in the 1990s, should now actively promote the protection of the ISTGH.