USA bars entry to ICC members probing 'war crimes' in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department Friday

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department Friday

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, center, waits on the steps of the International Criminal Court after answering questions of reporters in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, June 25, 2015.

The United States announced on Friday it would deny visas to members of the International Criminal Court involved in investigating alleged was crmes from U.S. troops in Afghanistan or in other countries.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, Friday, March 15, 2019 in Washington.

Pompeo said the new visa restrictions would include "persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation".

Pompeo also warned about potential economic sanctions "if the ICC does not change its course". "It must therefore not become the target of political measures", said a press releaseexternal link issued by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on Friday evening. He encouraged ICC member countries to "publicly make clear that they will remain undaunted in their support for the ICC and will not tolerate USA obstruction".

The International Criminal Court is supported by 123 nations, including Switzerland. While she didn't target the US military, Bensouda said the inquiry sought "support and cooperation" from the Afghan government, other state parties and the worldwide community as a whole "to accomplish our objectives of ensuring accountability for the crimes committed and that the long-suffering victims of those crimes receive justice". "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".

Echoing Bolton's broader denunciations of the ICC previous year, Pompeo on Friday highlighted that the United States-under both Democratic and Republican presidents-has refused to join the court for more than two decades "because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers and the threat it poses to American national sovereignty".

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After the court's founding in 2002, Congress passed a law prohibiting United States support for the ICC and also authorizing the government to use all necessary means to repatriate any American citizen detained by the court.

Supporters of the court slammed Pompeo's announcement on Friday.

"This is an unprecedented attempt to skirt worldwide accountability for well-documented war crimes", ACLU Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar said in the statement.

"Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked", the group's Washington director, Andrea Prasow, said, calling on USA lawmakers to express support for the court.

"This announcement is the latest attack on global justice and worldwide institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections".

"It reeks of the very totalitarian practices that are characteristic of the worst human rights abusers, and is a blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses", it said.

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