Trump administration cracks down on International Criminal Court, revokes top prosecutor's visa
In this file photo dated Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda waits for the start of the trial against former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says she has had her U.S. visa revoked, in the first implementation of an American crackdown on the global tribunal. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
The U.S. revoked the visa of an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Friday as part of the Trump administration’s effort to rebuke the tribunal’s investigation into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.
Fatou Bensouda, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor and a Gambian national, said in a statement that she "has an independent and impartial mandate" under the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, to continue the investigation against the U.S. and that she is committed to pursuing her duties “without fear or favor.”
The ICC is an international tribunal based in The Hague, the Netherlands that prosecutes individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression only when other countries are unwillingly to do so. The U.S. has never been a member of the court and actively opposes its jurisdiction on an international stage.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would revoke the visas of ICC personnel who attacked America’s rule of law by investigating allegations against U.S. forces in Afghanistan or allegations against Israel, The Guardian reported.
"We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said.
“If you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of US personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan you should not assume that you still have, or will get, a visa or that you will be permitted to enter the United States.”
Bensouda first went after the U.S. in 2017 when she asked for permission from ICC judges to open an Afghanistan probe. The prosecutor sought to investigate allegations of war crimes carried out by the U.S. military, the CIA and Afghan forces as well as crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban since May 2003.
The request claimed there is evidence that U.S. military and intelligence personnel "committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period."
The ICC plans to investigate the actions of CIA operatives in secret detention centers in Afghanistan and in other nations that are members of the tribunal. Palestinians have asked the court to investigate allegations against Israel, a major U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Bensouda is scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council in May on her investigations in Libya. Her office said the revocation of her visa should not affect the prosecutor's ability to travel to New York for regular council briefings.
The ICC was formed in 2000 when President Clinton signed the Roman Statute. The United States never became a member of the court because Clinton never brought the treaty before the U.S. Senate for ratification, fearing the court has unchecked jurisdiction.
In 2001, the Bush administration passed the American Service Members Protection Act, protecting U.S. forces from being charged by the ICC. In 2002, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, then a State Department official, ceremonially unsigned the Rome Statute at the United Nations.
Though the ICC has over 120 member countries, U.S. criticism of the court has dissuaded many nations from joining the tribunal. Nations not a part of the ICC include the United States, China, India, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel, USA Today reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.