Biden administration revokes Trump’s executive order to punish ICC officials

President Joe Biden has revoked an executive order for Donald Trump that has led to sanctions against ICC officials, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement Friday.

In a State Department statement, Blinken also said the State Department has ended another Trump-era policy of visa restrictions on some ICC officials.

“These decisions reflect our assessment that the actions adopted were inappropriate and ineffective,” Blinken said.

Human rights organizations praised the rollback of the Trump administration’s punitive measures against the ICC.

In June 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump authorized additional sanctions and visa restrictions against ICC staff in an attempt by the administration to force the international body to crack down on possible war crimes by U.S. military and intelligence officials.

Three months later, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the head of the ICC’s judicial and supplementary division of jurisdiction and cooperation, Vakiso Mushoshoku. The Trump administration revoked Bensouda’s visa to the United States in 2019.

The Trump administration’s retaliatory moves came after the International Criminal Court authorized an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, as well as alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban.

It also followed Bensouda’s attempt to investigate possible crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians. Last March, Bensouda opened an official investigation into Israel’s alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories, as well as alleged war crimes committed by Palestinian armed groups such as Hamas.

The International Tribunal, human rights organizations and the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, where the ICC is based, quickly condemned the September 2020 sanctions.

In his statement, Blinken said they “continue to differ sharply with the ICC’s actions regarding the Afghan and Palestinian situation.”

“We maintain our long-standing objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over the employees of non-parties such as the United States and Israel. However, we believe that our concerns about these issues will be better addressed by engaging with all stakeholders in the ICC process and not by imposing sanctions.”

“We are encouraged that the States parties to the Rome Statute are considering a wide range of reforms to help the Court prioritize its resources and achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort to punish and deter atrocity crimes.” We believe this reform is a worthwhile effort.”

“Our support for the rule of law, access to justice and accountability for mass atrocities are important national security interests of the United States that are protected and strengthened by dealing with the rest of the world to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” the Secretary of State said.

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